The mission of the EM NARI Government Affairs Committee includes 1) monitoring legislative and regulatory developments that impact its members’ work; 2) reporting such changes to the membership; and 3) providing input and industry-perspective to law makers and legislators on proposed changes to existing law. Despite being in the dog-days of summer, the committee is actively engaged on several key issues that impact EM NARI members.
Ninth Edition to Building Code
The Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) currently expects to implement the Ninth Edition of the Building Code (Residential Volume) as the exclusive code on January 1, 2018. There will be an interim period where it will run concurrently with the Eighth Edition that has been in effect since February 4, 2011. While the changes from the Eighth Edition to the Ninth are not expected to be drastic, the one you don’t know about or follow always is. For that reason, the Committee is working to line up a program to present the changes to members.
Massachusetts Senate Weighs Registration for Professional Interior Designers
The Massachusetts Senate is currently considering “An Act relative to advancing the profession of interior design” as Senate Bill No. 132/House Bill No. 2826. The proposed act would create a new professional license as a Registered Interior Designer. To attain such a license, the act would require individuals to pass a test administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). Once licensed, Registered Interior Designers would have the authority to affix their seal to any technical submissions relative to interior design, and to directly submit to local building authorities for the issuance of permits for the work reflected in such plans.
The Committee has reviewed the bill and will offer testimony by way of a letter authored by Jim Lavallee, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, to various Senators involved in promoting the proposed legislation. The letter expresses the committee’s concerns that the proposed legislation unfairly promotes a test offered by a single private provider (NCIDQ), creates multiple and confusing pathways for obtaining building permits, and creates an unnecessary barrier to the continuation of the practice of small businesses that provide interior design services to their customers (e.g. kitchen designers, etc…). Of greatest concern to the committee is that the current draft of the legislation would allow Registered Interior Designers to pull building permits where the work contemplated is not structural, however, once work on a project begins, structural issues may arise that are not within the professional experience of Registered Interior Designers to either identify or resolve.
Asbestos Testing May Be Required
On June 20, 2014 an Asbestos regulation was published in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Register as 310 CMR 7.15 that appears to impose certain onerous asbestos-testing requirements on those performing demolition or renovation services on building areas suspected of containing asbestos. The regulation requires anyone owning or performing renovation or demolition work in areas of a building that may contain asbestos to hire a licensed asbestos inspector to thoroughly survey the areas of the work and issue a detailed written report prior to commencing any work. The regulation appears to end the common practice of only contacting an asbestos abatement company after identifying potential asbestos containing material during the prosecution of the work.
The committee expressed concern that this regulation appears to have not been well-publicized to those in the industry, and has not been uniformly enforced. Some municipalities, the Town of Weston being one of them, require the submission of the written asbestos survey report before issuing building permits. Other municipalities require no documentation relating to pre-work asbestos surveys. The committee is exploring ways to spread the word regarding this regulation to members, and to better understand how it impacts our members.
SJC Considers Statute of Repose for Home Improvement Contractor Claims
The committee is monitoring a case that has been taken up by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that will impact how long after completion of their work residential contractors need to be concerned about potential claims under the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Statute (M.G.L. c. 142A, et seq.). Specifically, in Terry Bridgwood v. A.J. Wood Construction, Inc. et al, SJC Docket No. 12352, the Supreme Judicial Court has requested briefing on whether the six year statute of repose applicable to Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice claims under M.G.L. c. 93A (93A) is also applicable to claims under the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Statute.
A statute of repose is a deadline measured from a specific event (e.g. completion of work on a project) by which certain types of claims must be filed in court. This differs from a statute of limitations that typically runs from a date that a problem is discovered. Claims under the Massachusetts Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Statute have a statute of limitations of 4 years, and a statute of repose of 6 years. The Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Statute does not have a specifically stated statute of repose of 6 years, however, because the remedy for many violations of the Home Improvement Contractor Statute is a claim under 93A, the court will consider whether the 6 year statute of repose is also applicable to the Home Improvement Contractor Statute.
The Committee is considering whether an amicus brief from it will help in urging the Court to apply the 6 year statute of repose to claims under the Home Improvement Contractor Statute, and is looking to contact other interested-organizations who may be briefing the issue.