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New Proposed Massachusetts Legislation Tackles Copper Pipe Thefts from Vacant Homes

There has been a rise in copper thefts from vacant homes due to high copper prices.Proposed Bill Fights Copper Thefts from Vacant Homes

A growing number of homes on the market now are being vacated for such reasons as job relocation or foreclosure.

Once these homes are left unattended, more often than not they are being broken into and the copper pipes in the home are being removed and sold to scrap metal yards. When this occurs the home is now deemed “uninhabitable” and can’t be sold unless it’s to a cash buyer or a buyer who obtains a 203K loan. Regular financing is not obtainable for a home in this condition.

And if a seller moves out when a property is under agreement and the copper pipes are stripped, those pipes need to be replaced prior to closing or the entire deal can fall apart.

Due to this growing trend The State House announced proposed legislation to help deter potential thieves from stripping copper pipes from vacant homes.

Proposed Legislation to Combat Copper Pipe Theft

In November, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill to address both the illegal removal and sale of copper piping from property and the related issue of abandoned housing.

The bill, which will need Governor Patrick’s signature to go into effect, is called the An Act Regulating Secondary Metals Dealing. It would include the creation of a Secondary Metals Computer Registry, which would provide law enforcement officials with records of what scrap metal was being sold in the state and who was on each side of the transaction. This would provide police with the kind of detailed information that would help to keep scrap metal thieves out of business.

It would also create a state Abandoned Property Registry, a two-year pilot program to catalog all the foreclosed, abandoned and vacant properties in Massachusetts.

The bill addresses the illegal stripping and dealing of metal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through mandated licensure and other record-keeping requirements. By requiring more accurate record keeping and tracking of items and their sellers, it serves as a deterrent to potential thieves and assists law enforcement in ensuring that stolen metals are more easily recovered.

On November 15, 2011, Attorney General Coakley issued the following statement regarding the bill:

“The growth of abandoned properties and the skyrocketing value of metals have undermined public safety in our communities.  Lack of proper registration and oversight has made it too easy for thieves to strip out the copper and other metals, realizing profits from the vandalization of property and even the desecration of memorials.  The House’s action today moves us one step closer to implementing a strong regulatory scheme for scrap metal dealings so that we can better deter theft and assist law enforcement in holding thieves accountable. Identifying the owners of abandoned properties is one of the greatest hurdles communities face in rehabilitating vacant properties, and this bill’s establishment of an abandoned properties registry will greatly assist those efforts.”

We fully support this bill, which still needs final approval, and want it to go into effect as soon as possible.

Copper Theft is A Safety Issue for All Homeowners

Stripping vacant homes of copper pipes adds cost to the renovation of homes and can pose safety threats due to gas leaks and damage caused by stripping these pipes. But it also threatens occupied homes as well. Copper is found in gutters, flashings, downspouts, and air conditioning units, and can be removed while the homeowners are sleeping.

For an average 3-4 bedroom home with around 1200-1500 square feet of living space it can cost anywhere between $5,000-$8,000 for a plumber to have to replace all heating and water pipes if they are removed.

To make it harder for thieves to target your vacant home, consider installing an alarm system or motion sensor lights. Make sure all doors and windows are locked securely as many people forget to lock up the house completely. And don’t forget to disable the electric garage door opener. Power failures, interference from transmitters or radio frequency signals can cause garage doors to open.

It’s important to make sure if you are vacating your home that you keep it as protected as you as can.









Resources:

MA Legislature: An Act Regulating Secondary Metals Dealing

AG Coakley Commends House Passage of Legislation to Address Abandoned Properties, Copper Theft