Condominium Associations Granted More Authority in Collecting Delinquent Fees

In Drummer Boy Homes Association Inc. v. Britton, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that condominium associations can impose consecutive, rolling super-liens against units that are delinquent in paying the common or special charges owed to the association. Condominium law in Massachusetts has always included the ability to impose regular monthly charges and irregular special assessments against units – since 1992, the law has also authorized a “super priority lien” to be filed against any units that failed to pay those charges.

The so-called super-lien takes priority over any mortgages that are also on the condominium unit, meaning that the condominium association charges are paid before the loan is paid if the unit is foreclosed on. This provides the association a very important tool in collecting its fees, because lenders require that borrowers pay the fees, and will often pay the condominium fees on behalf of the borrower in order to maintain their priority in the chain of title. (The borrower doesn’t avoid the fees when that happens – the lender simply tacks the amount paid on behalf of the borrower onto the borrower’s loan with the lender.)

The super-lien used by condominium associations can only be created and perfected when the condominium association takes specific steps to provide notice to the borrower and the lender, and the condominium law only allows for these notices to cover a six month period of unpaid condominium charges.

The importance of the Drummer Boy case was the court’s approval of the practice by which a condominium association could create and perfect a super-lien for a six month period, and then create and perfect a super-lien for the following six month period. Previously, it was argued by lenders that the super-lien was limited to a total of six months, but that argument was rejected by the SJC.

As a result of this decision, a condominium association is even better equipped to impose common charges and special assessments necessary for the successful continued operation of the association. Nevertheless, specific steps and timelines still have to be met to perfect and enforce these liens. If you’re a member of a condominium association, or a property manager working with a condominium association, contact Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com or 413-583-5196 to discuss how to make sure these steps are being taken.

Modifying Child Support or Custody/Parenting Time Orders

It is tough to know when it’s appropriate to modify a past child support or custody/parenting time order. A standard that courts look at is “a material change in circumstances,” which may seem vague and overbroad to many people. Here are a few examples of situations that may warrant modifying a support order: One parent changes jobs or obtains a promotion and makes a significant amount more or less than before; when a child is around 16 years old and planning to continue his/her education; if a child spends more or less time with one parent than before (the more time a child spends with one parent, in theory, the more the other parent should have to contribute to assist that parent who has the child for more time); and the length of time from the original court order.

If college is not discussed or provided for in a court order, it can be revisited later when the child is in high school and considering pursuing higher education. At that point, it becomes much more relevant and costs can be ascertained rather than be merely speculative.

Here are a few examples of situations that may warrant modifying a custody/parenting time order: Extracurricular activities are getting in the way of a parent’s time with his/her child and the other parent isn’t accommodating to switch days; an old parenting schedule or holiday schedule doesn’t work as the child gets older or traditions have changed; vacation or holiday time is absent from the agreement and becomes an issue later on; disputes arise about taking the child on vacations out of state; if either parent moves out of state or has a new job requiring a new schedule/parenting plan; or any type of disagreement about how the child should spend time with each parent, which never made its way into an official court order.

If there are issues with the original court order and the old order doesn’t seem to work anymore for your situation, a modification may be appropriate, especially if the other parent does not want to accommodate a request for an unofficial change to the existing order. Child support and custody/parenting time can be easily modifiable, since there are many situations that may arise that can be interpreted as “material” and significant in nature.

If you need any assistance or have any questions about a child support or custody modification, please contact our office at 413-583-5196 or info@govelawoffice.com.

Divorce Options: Litigation

In our first two posts about divorce options, attorney we discussed Limited Assistance Representation and mediation. In the last post in this series, we examine the most common approach to divorce.

The final and most common option is litigated divorce. Litigation does not necessarily mean that the case goes to trial, and often times it does not. The process to initiate a divorce is that one spouse needs to file a Complaint for Divorce with the Probate and Family Court and serve the other spouse with the Summons and Complaint. Most complaints for divorce cite as the reason for divorce that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there is no hope for reconciliation. This is referred to as a no-fault divorce and is the most common. A fault divorce is different because there is a specific reason that the marriage dissolved, such as adultery, desertion, cruel and abusive treatment, confinement in prison, habits of intoxication, or impotency. The spouse initiating the divorce has the burden of proving the other spouse behaved in one or more of those ways during the marriage, and this can be a heavy burden; it is usually easier to show that a marriage has no hope of reconciliation. Also, there is no significant benefit to filing for a fault divorce, as it is only one of the eighteen factors a judge will look at to determine property distribution, alimony, and child custody and support.

Litigation is an appropriate option when a divorce is combative or emotionally charged. Litigation allows each party to have a lawyer advocating for their best options, which is a great asset to have during the divorce process. It also allows for some negotiation between the initial filing of the divorce and the first court appearance (usually a pre-trial conference). Many cases are settled before the pre-trial conference, at which time the judge reviews the separation agreement with the spouses, which will become the final divorce decree.

One danger of litigation occurs when the parties do not settle beforehand – any disagreement will be settled by a judge who knows little about your situation, but will have the final decisions about personal topics such as your children, assets, or potential future alimony. This option is usually pursued by spouses who have significant personal and/or business assets and cannot decide between themselves a fair and equitable allocation. Cases which involve alimony or spousal support may also go to trial, since there are many factors a judge can weigh in determining the type, amount, and duration of alimony and spouses seldom take all of those factors into consideration.

If you need any assistance with a divorce or family law matter, please contact our office at 413-583-5196 or info@govelawoffice.com.

Creative Charitable Giving Strategies for Your Estate Plan

This is a guest post by Michael Duff, Director of Estate & Gift Planning for the American Cancer Society.

Charitable giving is a great option to consider for your estate plan. Charitable estate planning helps you combine your desire to give to charity with your overall financial, tax, and estate planning goals. Many of you are likely familiar with a bequest, the most common form of charitable giving (where you indicate a specific amount or a percentage of your estate/trust to go to charity). However, there are many different options to consider based on your personal and financial goals. This post outlines a few alternative charitable giving possibilities to consider when planning your estate.

Charitable Remainder Trust

A Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) is a gift where property is transferred into a trust and pays annual distributions from its principal until the trust terminates, at which point the remainder amount transfers to the charity. The property transferred into the trust is invested during the life of the trust. This graphic below from the American Cancer Society website illustrates the function of a CRUT:

CRUT Diagram

This option provides an immediate tax deduction to the donor for the charitable gift, as well as annual distributions from the trust. A CRUT is a great option to consider for those who have highly appreciated assets that might be subject to capital gains tax (stocks, real estate, etc.), as a CRUT will help you avoid these taxes.

Benefits of a CRUT:

 Receive income for life or a term of years in return for your gift

 Receive an immediate income tax deduction for a portion of your contribution

 Pay no upfront capital gains tax on appreciated assets you donate

 You can make additional gifts to the trust as your circumstances allow, for additional income and tax benefits

Items to consider:

 A CRUT is an irrevocable gift to the charity

 The level of investment for a CRUT. The typical size that we see at the American Cancer Society for this type of gift is $200,000 or more.

Charitable Gift Annuity

Another gift option is a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA), where you transfer cash or securities to the charity, which in return pays a fixed income to you or a selected beneficiary for life. The remaining balance passes to the charity when the contract ends at the death of the last beneficiary. This option is good for those who might be interested in supplemental income at a higher return than a low-earning security or CD. CGAs can also be done at a lower investment, with many charities requiring a minimum of $5,000 to $10,000 (ex. American Cancer Society has a $5,000 minimum). Many charities have a CGA program, and you can connect with them to learn more about their program and request a rate illustration.

Benefits of a CGA:

 Receive dependable, fixed income for life in return for your gift

 In many cases, increase the yield you are currently receiving from stocks or CDs

 Receive an immediate income tax deduction for a portion of your gift

 A portion of your annuity payment will be tax-free

Items to consider:

 Beneficiaries must be at least 60 years of age at the time of the gift

 Gift annuity rates are partly determined by the age of the beneficiary

 Charities often have minimum donation requirements for a CGA

 Younger donors may find planning benefits in a deferred gift annuity

Other Creative Gifting Options

There are many other creative ways to do charitable giving with your assets, including gifts of appreciated securities, a retained life estate, a donor advised fund, or gifts of personal property. I will quickly outline each of these gifts below.

Gifts of Appreciated Securities

You transfer appreciated stocks, bonds or mutual fund shares you have owned for one year or more to the charity and receive an immediate income-tax deduction.

Retained Life Estate

One of my personal favorite types of gifts; you transfer your property to charity and continue to live in the property for life or a specified term of years, and continue to be responsible for all taxes and upkeep. The property then passes to the charity when your life estate ends. You get immediate income tax deduction for a portion of the appraised property value and get to use the property for the rest of your life.

Donor Advised Fund

An increasingly popular option in recent years, a donor advised fund (DAF) is an irrevocable gift to a public charity sponsoring your account of cash, securities, or other property. You invest your fund and distributions to charities of your choice are made at your recommendation. This option allows donors to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax benefit and then recommend specific charitable donations to be made from the DAF.

Gifts of personal property

You transfer valuable paintings, antiques, or other personal property to the charity for the charity to use or sell and in return receive an income tax deduction on the appraised value and pay no capital gains tax.

There are numerous creative ways to incorporate charitable giving as part of your estate plans. Some of these options have benefits to you or your beneficiaries during your lifetime, and ultimately can help you with your financial goals. I would recommend taking time to consider your ultimate goals for your estate plan, as well as the goals for your legacy. Then, share these goals with your attorney and financial teams. They can help you narrow down the best options to consider. I also recommend that if you have a charity in mind to include in your estate plans, reach out to them to find out the options they have available to you.

Your legacy is important and can have meaningful and lasting impact in your community, so take the time to understand all of the charitable giving possibilities available to you.

If you are in need of legal advice regarding estate planning and administration, Gove Law Office is here to answer your questions. Please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com or 413-583-5196.

Improving the Supplemental or Special Needs Trust

In December 2016, shortly before leaving office, President Obama signed into law the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, which amended the Social Security Act in a way that is very important to people living with disabilities.

Disabled individuals are often recipients of government benefits that can make the difference in allowing the individual to lead a fuller, more independent life. However, most benefits like these are “needs-based” or “means-tested.” In other words, an award from a lawsuit or a small inheritance could result in the loss of these benefits. Since 1993, the Social Security Act has allowed such funds to be placed into a Supplemental (or Special) Needs Trust (SNT) and then spent on behalf of the individual with disabilities in order to enhance their care by supplementing (but not supplanting) the government benefits.

However, the statute that originally authorized SNTs also required that the trust had to be established by “a parent, grandparent, legal guardian of the individual, or a court,” forcing disabled individuals to rely on people other than themselves, when that might not otherwise be necessary. The two word change that was signed into law in December adds “the individual” to the list of people who are able to create an SNT. The result is that clients, when they are otherwise competent, are now explicitly allowed to create these trusts on their own behalf, without having to involve parents or other family members.

If you are in need of legal advice regarding Supplementary or Special Needs Trusts or another type of trust, Gove Law Office is here to answer your questions. We handle a wide variety of legal needs, including estate planning and administration. For further information, please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com or 413-583-5196.

Divorce Options: Mediation

In our first post about divorce options, we discussed Limited Assistance Representation. Our second installment in the series delves into the world of divorce mediation.

Mediation is often viewed as an advisable alternative to do-it-yourself divorce because it may lower the cost of divorce while allowing another individual — a mediator — to be involved in the process, in hopes of handling it more peacefully. A mediator’s role is to be a neutral third party who facilitates a discussion around issues such as property division (how to divide joint assets and liabilities, pensions and retirement accounts), alimony, and post-divorce medical coverage. If the couple has children together, other issues that may be discussed include custody, parenting time, holiday and vacation schedules, extracurricular activities, uninsured medical costs, child support, and, potentially, the contributions of each parent to the cost of college/higher education.

Mediators do not provide legal representation to the parties. Rather, they are trained and skilled professionals who foster dialogue between the parties in a respectful manner and discuss potential outcomes with them. An important aspect of the mediation process is that the couple comes in with an open mind and is willing to enter into discussions and compromise if needed. The parties are each advised to consult an attorney of their choosing before they sign anything to ensure that it is fair, reflects all of their wishes, and addresses all property, assets, liabilities, and child custody/support issues accordingly.

Some couples anticipate a traditional litigated divorce and both parties retain counsel, but later on realize they are more in agreement than previously thought. At this point, mediation can still be explored and utilized to resolve any issues that are not agreed upon. It can be helpful to have a neutral third party facilitate discussions that can open dialogue around sensitive topics, paving the way for resolution without litigation.

Divorce involving mediation often allows for a better future relationship with your ex-spouse because fighting may be minimized and all discussions are handled in private. This can be an especially good approach for couples who have children together because they are able to continue to have a relationship with one another post-divorce. Minimizing hostility is especially important for effective co-parenting.

However, mediation may not be a good option if you are likely to be manipulated by your spouse. The mediator’s role is to make sure that the divorce outcome is one that both parties can settle on, and not necessarily one that is fair to both parties. All financial information is presented voluntarily, so if you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, then this option may not be advisable. Most importantly, if you might feel uncomfortable properly advocating for your needs, then you may want to avoid this option.

If you need any assistance with a divorce or family law matter, please contact our office at 413-583-5196 or info@govelawoffice.com.

Reverse Mortgages Simplified – Common Uses of Reverse Mortgages

Part 2 of a guest series about reverse mortgages by Tony Lopes, Branch Manager/Reverse Mortgage Specialist, Reverse Mortgage Funding LLC (RMF). Be sure to read Part 1, Reverse Mortgages Simplified – Closing the Financial Gap for a New Generation of Retirees.

In our last blog post, we covered the basic concepts of reverse mortgages and how they can help some seniors live a safer and more secure retirement. Over the years the government has added many safeguards to the reverse mortgage program to make it more consumer friendly. In our third post, we’ll discuss those changes and safety measures that have made the program more approachable for a wider range of seniors. For this post, we’re going to discuss the four common uses that borrowers and their advisors utilize to improve financial sustainability through retirement:

1. Cash flow – One of the common uses of a reverse mortgage is to receive monthly payments from the proceeds generated by the reverse mortgage. Borrowers who struggle to make their monthly obligations can convert the equity in their property into tax-free* income, where they will receive a set amount of money per month for as long as they live in the property.** Converting equity into monthly cash flow can allow them to live a more financially secure retirement and in almost every case will increase their probability of financial success in retirement.

2. Standby Line of Credit – In recent years many prominent financial planning researchers have published studies on the advantages of setting up a reverse mortgage line of credit. They specifically looked at coordinating spending of home equity throughout retirement along with other cash assets. When a senior has no mortgage or a small mortgage on a property, they can utilize a reverse mortgage in the same way they would use a home equity line of credit. But in many cases the Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit has advantages over the standard HELOC:

a. Flexible Payment Feature – No monthly principle or interest payments are required, and there is no predefined loan maturity date. A borrower can choose to pay down the loan at any time or defer repayment.

b. Credit Line Growth – The unused credit line will grow over time, giving borrowers access to additional funds if needed.

c. The line of credit cannot be reduced or revoked by the lender, as long as the borrower meets their loan obligations (i.e. timely payment of taxes and insurance and maintaining the home).

d. Government Insured – 99% of the reverse mortgages originated today are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

e. Non-recourse feature – A borrower can never owe more than the home is worth when the loan is repaid.

A reverse mortgage line of credit can be an excellent way to plan for unexpected expenses such as healthcare costs, home maintenance, and upgrades, or can just be a safety net for any of the unexpected expenses life throws at us.

3. Paying off an existing mortgage – Reverse mortgages can be utilized to pay off an existing traditional “forward” mortgage. If a person is over the age of 62, has a mortgage, and plans to age in place, a reverse mortgage can be a great way to pay off their existing mortgage. Using a reverse mortgage in this manner helps by freeing up the cash that the senior was paying on their monthly mortgage payment. Depending on the home value and balance on the existing mortgage, there may be additional funds available that can be utilized as a line of credit or can be disbursed monthly to the borrower.

A real example: A couple from Peabody was drawing money from their IRA to make a $1,500 mortgage payment. They used a reverse mortgage to refinance their existing mortgage to lose that $1,500 monthly payment, PLUS they can also draw $1,500 a month in tax-free* cash; which means they have a $3,000 per month positive cash flow swing by using this one strategy.

4. Rightsizing – A reverse mortgage can be used to purchase a home by combining a one-time investment of cash (down payment) with the loan proceeds from a reverse mortgage to complete the transaction. As with a traditional mortgage, the home being purchased secures the loan. However, unlike a traditional mortgage, there are no monthly mortgage payments, which can help increase cash flow. The borrower owns the home as long as they live in it. The loan does not have to be repaid until the home is sold or the borrower is no longer living in the property as their primary residence. For the loan to remain in good standing, the borrower needs to maintain the property and keep current with property related tax and insurance payments.

Through my years as an HUD-approved reverse mortgage counselor and as a loan originator I have seen many creative and helpful ways a reverse mortgage has improved someone’s quality of life in retirement. I’ve listed the common uses, but the less common uses are the ones that have can have the greatest benefit for seniors. Take Mary, who I counseled many years ago: She loved her home in Ocean City, NJ, where she and her deceased husband had lived for over 50 years. She was able to get by month to month but was unable to see her two sons and their families in Florida as often as she would like. Mary was cash poor and house rich, and she decided to see if a reverse mortgage may be able to help her. She was able to get a reverse mortgage line of credit on her property for over $300,000. Having access to this money has allowed Mary to travel to see her grandchildren at least once every six months, and her quality of life is better because of it.

Reverse mortgages aren’t right for everyone. But if someone is concerned about running out of money in retirement, they are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t research whether a reverse mortgage would help them.

* Not tax advice. Consult a tax professional.

**Must maintain the property and stay current with property related tax and insurance payments.

Tony Lopes is an experienced HECM Loan Specialist with Reverse Mortgage Funding, prior to originating loans he spent seven years as a HUD Approved Reverse Mortgage Counselor. Tony is available at alopes@reversefunding.com or 413-478-2013 to help educate borrowers and their families. Branch Address: 1325 Springfield St, Feeding Hills, MA 01030. NMLS # 1408098

Gove Law Office, LLC is a general practice law firm with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, MA. The firm handles  a wide variety of legal needs, including residential real estate matters. For more information, please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com.

Buying Real Estate: Title Insurance

When purchasing a home, obtaining clear title (or ownership) is your ultimate goal. Clear title ensures there are no delinquent taxes, unpaid liens, undisclosed heirs, unknown property line conflicts, or surprise easements on your new property.

To ensure you’re getting clear title from the seller, you attorney will conduct a title examination by searching public records back a number of years (sometimes decades). Almost one-third of all title examinations find an unusual title problem according to the American Land Title Association. Some issues can be resolved easily, but some require the seller to contact past owners (or their attorneys) before they can be addressed.

If you’re getting a loan for your home, the lender will require you to get a “lender’s title insurance” policy. This type of title insurance policy, however, only protects the lender and not the owner, and the policy coverage decreases over time as the loan is paid off.

In contrast, an “owner’s title insurance” policy is the best way to protect your interest as the new owner of your home. This type of title insurance policy, which is paid for with a one-time fee at the purchase, covers you and your heirs for as long as you own the property. It will also pay potential legal fees for defending and settling claims related to your ownership.

Rates for title insurance policies are based on the purchase price for the property but are regulated in all states, so prices are usually similar among reputable insurers. A typical lender’s title insurance policy will cost $2.75 per $1,000 (or $618.75 for a $225,000 loan), and an owner’s title insurance policy will add another $2.225 per $1,000 (or $556.25 for a $250,000 purchase price) if purchased at the same time.

As a full service law firm with a focus on real estate transactions, Gove Law Office is a title insurance agent for a number of reliable title insurance companies. Call or email us today to discuss your options.

Michael S. Gove, Esq. is the founding partner of Gove Law Office, LLC, a general practice law firm with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, MA. The firm handles a wide variety of legal needs, including all residential and commercial real estate transactions and leasing. For more information, please contact the office by calling 413-583-5196 or emailing mgove@govelawoffice.com.

Radon Mitigation

This is the third and final post in a guest series about radon gas in the home by Rick Galarneau, owner of MassRADON. Be sure to read Part 1, Radon Gas and How It Gets Into Your Home, and Part 2, Testing for Radon in Your Home.

Radon mitigation is the process of removing radon gas from the home to a level that is considered safe.

Removing airborne radon usually begins by first sealing entry points for radon. This is accomplished by caulking any cracks and holes in the basement floor and sealing sumps. Crawl spaces with open earth floors should be sealed in a thick plastic sheet. Depending on the initial test results, these steps can often reduce radon levels on their own.

If a mitigation system is still needed after the above steps are completed, then one or two (rarely more) 4″ holes are drilled in the concrete floor. The “plug” of concrete is removed and then some of the underlying material — dirt, sand, gravel, stones, etc. — is removed to create a pit. PVC piping is inserted into the hole and sealed. The pipe is directed to the exterior of the house or into an attached garage, where a radon suction fan is attached. The exhaust side of the fan is also piped, and it’s directed to a point above the roofline of the home. Radon gas must be discharged above the roof so that it can be carried away by the wind.

This is a standard mitigation system and costs typically fall in the $1,100 to $1,500 price range, depending on the extent of work and amount of materials needed. These systems work well in most houses, but not all. Very old homes and homes with dirt floor basements may require other work or a fresh air ventilation system to dilute the radon to a safe level. There are many variables that will determine how well a system will work and what type of system may be needed in a given home. A site visit should be completed before a quote is offered.

Radon in your well water is removed in a different way. This type of mitigation requires a system that strips radon from well water by aeration. A unit is installed that takes well water from your storage tank in the basement and directs it in the radon system. Thousands of air bubbles are introduced into the water, which strips the radon gas molecules and vents them to a point above the roofline. These systems are usually about 98% effective in their reduction capabilities and cost around $4,500. Again, a site visit is required to determine several things, including the size and material of the water main coming from the well tank and a viable route for the vent pipe, and to ensure that the electrical system is capable of accepting an additional circuit.

Allow plenty of time for the radon mitigation process to be completed, especially when you are selling your home. Mitigation is generally a fairly quick process, and most systems can be installed in a few hours, but occasionally repeat visits may be required to install additional suction pits or make other modifications to the system in order to obtain acceptable results. This may require testing in between the visits to determine the effectiveness of the modifications. Allowing plenty of time for the mitigation process will help you reach acceptable reading levels without interfering with your closing date.

Rick Galarneau has been the owner-operator of Aaron Associates, MassRADON, for the last 14 years.  He is a member of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and the National Radon Proficiency Program. He is a National Environmental Health Association Certified radon mitigator and has successfully mitigated over 1,000 homes in Western Massachusetts.

Gove Law Office, LLC is a general practice law firm with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, MA. The firm handles  a wide variety of legal needs, including residential real estate matters. For more information, please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com.

Testing for Radon in Your Home

Part 2 of a guest series about radon gas in the home by Rick Galarneau, owner of MassRADON. Be sure to read Part 1, Radon Gas and How It Gets Into Your Home.

Let’s talk about airborne radon testing, since it’s the first step in determining if there is in fact a radon problem in your home. Let’s preface this by stating that radon gas is everywhere — it’s in the air we breathe, even in our backyard. And it is definitely in every house on the planet, even ones with a radon system. Since radon is everywhere, the real question becomes, how much radon is there?

Radon testing is the only way to know the radon levels in your house. It doesn’t matter what level your neighbor has, or anyone else on your street, for that matter; every house is different. It’s possible for unsafe levels of radon to be found in only one house on a given street, while all the other homes test as safe. Or the opposite could be true: they may all test as unsafe except for one house.

Testing comes in several forms. The EPA recommends what is known as long-term testing. Long-term testing should be done whenever possible because it will give the most accurate results regarding your average indoor radon levels. Long-term testing can last three months to a year, and it should be done across two or more seasons. Nothing special needs to be done to the house and normal living conditions should be maintained. There is no need to close up the house or worry about the weather, since this testing is designed to determine levels of radon under everyday living conditions. This is the type of test you would want to use in a house that is not for sale at the time of testing.

Short-term testing was designed to get a quick idea if a home might have an elevated radon level when there isn’t enough time for long-term testing. Short-term testing is typically conducted for 48 to 72 hours. Any method of testing should always be done for a minimum of 48 hours and under normal weather conditions, which are just what you would think: 2-3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period and high wind conditions are not normal, and such weather will greatly impact your short term testing results in a negative way. Severe weather will raise indoor radon levels substantially during the weather event. They will return to their more regular readings as that weather passes.

The EPA states that radon testing should be conducted in the lowest level of a home that is suitable to be used as a living space without major renovations. That means that most basements that have intact concrete or block walls, a concrete floor, and are mostly dry and could be used as an exercise space, family room, workshop, etc., would be the right place to test. A basement in an old house with crumbling stone walls, a dirt floor, missing concrete floor sections, or low ceilings and very damp conditions would not be the preferred location for testing because its condition makes it unsuitable to be used for much of anything. In this case the first floor living space would be the preferred testing location.

Please test your home, test your families’ homes, test every home.

Rick Galarneau has been the owner-operator of Aaron Associates, MassRADON, for the last 14 years.  He is a member of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and the National Radon Proficiency Program. He is a National Environmental Health Association Certified radon mitigator and has successfully mitigated over 1,000 homes in Western Massachusetts. Part 3 of this series addresses mitigating radon gas in your home.

Gove Law Office, LLC is a general practice law firm with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, MA. The firm handles  a wide variety of legal needs, including residential real estate matters. For more information, please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com.