Published on: May 16, 2011

In the 2008, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a new law, which takes effect on September 30, 2011, relative to upgrades of home heating systems equipment to prevent leaks from tanks and pipes that connect to a furnace.  The new law, G.L. c. 148, Section 38J, as amended, requires that an owner of residential property (defined as 1-4 unit dwellings) must take certain action relative to the installation of an oil safety valve or an oil supply line with a protective sleeve.  

Pursuant to the new law, the Board of Fire Prevention adopted certain regulations, which may be found at 527 CMR 4.04.  Unfortunately, 527 CMR 4.04 does not provide a definition of “residential property”.  However, Section 4.04(1)(f) states, “all oil supply and return lines not enclosed with a continuous non-metallic sleeve or equipped with a listed oil safety valve, shall either be replaced and enclosed with a continuous sleeve as for new installation or shall have a listed oil safety valve installed at the tank end of the oil supply line…”

The word “all” in the regulations seems to contradict, and perhaps expand on the limitation of 1-4 unit dwellings contained in the new law.  As such, in an effort to obtain clarification, our office spoke with a representative from the Board of Fire Prevention as to the application of the new law.  We were informed that “all” means all in their opinion, and thus the new law would apply to residential properties with more than four units.  Normally, a statute would trump a regulation/code provision.  However, pursuant to 527 CMR 1.20(2), when any provision of 527 CMR is found to be in conflict with any other applicable law, the provision which establishes the higher standard for the promotion and protection of the safety and welfare of the public shall prevail.  Here, as the “all” contained in the code establishes a higher standard of safety than the new law, the provision in the code prevails.

In conducting our research on this issue, we also came across the following DEP fact sheet on this topic.  As you will see, this fact sheet states that only owners of 1-4 unit residences must take action; providing yet another conflicting opinion on this issue.

Based on all of this information, and in order to obtain a clear understanding of the new law’s applicability, we intend to seek an advisory opinion on this topic from the Board of Fire Prevention.  Upon receipt of this opinion or any further clarification, we will update you accordingly.  In the meantime, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Matt Gaines at or 781-843-5000.