Public Safety and Security Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-427

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS IN CERTAIN RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS AT THE TIME THE TITLE IS TRANSFERRED.

Vote Date:

3/13/2014

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/11/2014

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Public Safety and Security

REASONS FOR BILL:

To require the affidavit regarding smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to be based upon the transferor's knowledge and belief at the time the title is transferred and to exempt certain transfers.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Sen. Clark Chapin, Deputy Minority Leader, Ranking Member, Energy & Technology Committee and Environment Committee: Senator Chapin is in favor of the bill as he believes it will elevate standards in accordance with fire and carbon monoxide emergencies. He expresses worries in regard to the original language, which placed homeowners in a position that required them to make a decision of which they were not qualified to make. He suggested adding “to the best knowledge and belief of the transferor” to the bill, which was added in the substitute language.

Maryann Hebert, Past President, Connecticut Realtors: Ms. Hebert testifies in favor of SB 427 while representing CT Realtors. She expressed initial concerns that attorneys were advising their homeowners to pay the $250 fee, since it was their belief that homeowners were not qualified to decide if the smoke and carbon monoxide detecting equipment was functioning up to standards. Paying the fee allows the sellers to avoid liability. Hebert makes several suggestions to the initial language of the bill including: the inclusion of the statement that the affidavit only states information “to the best of the transferor's knowledge,” that the bill extends its language to include cooperatives and condominium units, and to add exceptions to strict foreclosures, short sales, and relocations. All of these concerns were addressed in the substitute language.

Jonathan Anderson, Senior Title Counsel, CATIC: Anderson supports SB-427 and believes it reinforces the law's duty to protect its citizens. He expresses concern, like many other submitted testimonies, that the affidavit may be an “unreasonable burden” to place on most homeowners. He believes only people who were involved with the design, production, or testing of such smoke or carbon monoxide detectors would be able to accurately state such an affidavit. So he suggests a revision in the language so homeowners sign the affidavit only to the best of their knowledge. He also makes mention of including common interest communities in the bill. All of his concerns were addressed in the substitute language.

Karin NeJame, Attorney: NeJame supports SB-427. She believes under the law's current state, that it is “simply unworkable.” She says in the example of a relocation transaction, that the relocation services are not qualified to provide the affidavit. By making the affidavit changed to its state mentioned in the substitute language, NeJame says it will reduce the amount of inaccurate information floating around regarding the safety of newly bought or rented homes and properties. She also notes that resales within six months of the initial sell should be exempt. All of NeJame's suggestions are addressed in the substitute language.

Elton Harvey, Transactional Lawyer, Baillie & Hershman P.C., Chairman, Connecticut Bar Association Real Property Section: Harvey supports the bill, but has certain concerns about its initial language. He first addresses the necessity of a “safe harbor” for the distributors of the affidavits, who should only be able to sign to the best of their knowledge and belief, as is in other state laws. He secondly admits that the $250 fee for not signing the affidavit is actually an attractive alternative to most homeowners, so the affidavit is actually a disincentive to sellers because it gives them liability over something they do not fully understand. His last point suggests extending the list of the exempted to short sales, strict foreclosures, relocation sales, and foreclosures by sale. All of his suggestions were addressed in the substitute language.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Rep. Daniel Fox: Representative Fox opposes SB-427 because he believes it has come out too soon following their previous ruling regarding this matter, Public Act 13-272. The previous law has only been effective as of January 2014, and he believes these two months since its activation may result in premature rulings due to there not being enough time to assess the effectiveness of their law. He also believes the affidavit only reports the usefulness of the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors up until the date of the sale, and that this does not guarantee proper usage on the dates following. His final issue with the bill is in regards to the types of properties that are exempt from the bill, which he includes were specifically excluded from exemption during the related acts' initial proposal. By increasing the number of properties exempt from this safety procedure, Fox believes the bill is contradicting its protective nature.

Reported by: Paul Fleming

Date: 3/14/14