UFFI – Urea Formaldahyde Form Insulation

UFFI Disclosure Legislation Repealed –
Brokers/Lenders Protected Against Claims

To MAR’s Legislative Director Steve Ryan, for all of his work in the repeal of this unnecessary disclosure requirement.

Also thanks to the Berkshire REALTORS® who attended Day on Beacon Hill and spoke to our legislators about this issue.

Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) has been in use as an insulation material in the U.S. since the 1960’s, with installations peaking in the late 1970’s. The insulation material consists of three basic ingredients: urea formaldehyde resin, a foaming agent and air. Use of the material was banned by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in 1979 because of formaldehyde emissions.

Legislation signed into law on August 10, 2002 removed the requirement for anyone selling a residence in Massachusetts to disclose affirmatively the presence or absence of UFFI. There remained a provision in another section of Mass Law that did not get addressed – a bank or mortgage company retained liability resulting from UFFI, unless it had obtained a signed statement from the seller or buyer indicating that there was no UFFI in the home. In typical catch-twenty two fashion, sellers no longer had to disclose according to the law, but lenders were not afforded any protection for UFFI liability without a sellers statement (safe harbor) and therefore required disclosure before a buyer could finalize their mortgage.

Understanding this problem immediately after the bill’s passage, the Massachusetts Association offered technical amendments to eliminate this issue, which were enacted in 2003.

On January 1, 2003 Governor Swift signed into law a clarification providing that no claims may arise or be maintained against a seller, landlord, real estate agent or lender with regard to failure to disclose that the property was insulated with UFFI, to be effective 90 days after signature.

Consequently after April 1, 2003 UFFI disclosure is unnecessary because the two facets are now addressed by state law

(1) the seller doesn’t’t have a legal obligation to disclose or determine the presence of UFFI and 
(2) sellers, landlords, agents or lenders can not be sued or held liable for failure to disclose.

This amendment also removed the “safe harbor” protections found in related statutes and regulations. Chapter 248 of the Acts of 2002 An Act Relative to Homeowner Testing for Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation repeals Section 12I of Chapter 255 of the General Laws which required disclosure by sellers of residential property as to the presence of urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI). This Act was approved on August 10, 2002 . A technical amendment was signed by Governor Swift on January 1, 2003, making the effective date 90 days after signature, April 2003.

Why was this disclosure requirement repealed?

After extensive testing, higher levels of UFFI gas was not detected in homes with this type of insulation – time had dissipated its emissions and does not pose a threat to the public’s health.

What exactly Is UFFI? (Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation)

What is UFFI?

Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) is a home insulation made of urea formaldehyde resin and a foaming agent, blown or pumped into the walls and ceiling. Formaldehyde in the insulation, even if properly installed, reacts with heat and humidity in the air. This allows formaldehyde gas to be released into the air of a UFFI-insulated building. This type of insulation, popular during the energy crunch of the 1970’s, was banned by Massachusetts in November, 1979.

Is Formaldehyde gas harmful?

Formaldehyde gas can cause health problems in sensitive individuals including infants, the elderly, people with respiratory diseases (such as asthma), and people who have allergies. Undesirable health effects may include sore throat or nose, difficulty breathing, nosebleeds, headaches, laryngitis, nausea, skin or eye irritation, fatigue, or dizziness. Formaldehyde gas can be released into homes by pressed wood, fabrics, and cosmetics as well as by UFFI.

How can I tell if I have UFFI?

You can look for UFFI in your home by removing the cover from an electrical outlet or switch on an exterior wall and looking for insulation inside the wall. UFFI looks like dry shaving cream, is yellow or white, and has a brittle (not spongy) consistency. You should look in several walls and in the attic, basement, or crawlspaces of your home. If insulation was installed while you owned the home, you should check your records to see what kind it was.

What should I do if I find UFFI?

If you have UFFI you should contact the Department of Health for free air testing. The air testing will measure how much formaldehyde is in the air of your house. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that average formaldehyde levels ate 0.073ppm (parts per million) in UFFI homes, 0.03ppm in non-UFFI homes, and 0.005ppm in urban outdoor air.

Where can I get further information?

Massachusetts Department of Public Health