Building codes null unless Town Adopts them Officially

MOUNT DESERT — New homes here will not have to be built in compliance with the new Maine Universal Building and Energy Codes (MUBEC) if the town decides not to adopt the new codes, according to the state agency responsible for enforcement of building standards.

That is contrary to what Mount Desert code enforcement officer Kim Keene and other town officials had understood to be the case under the MUBEC law that went into effect in December 2010.

Under that law, towns that had not previously adopted their own building codes were given until July 2012 to adopt and begin enforcement of MUBEC, which replaced all municipal building codes in the state. Towns with fewer than 2,000 people were exempt from the law. Mount Desert, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 2,053.

Two months ago, the Legislature changed the MUBEC law to exempt towns under 4,000 population. So, the board of selectmen must now decide whether to ask voters at town meeting next May if they want to voluntarily adopt the new, comprehensive building and energy efficiency standards or to opt out of enforcing MUBEC.

On Aug. 2, Ms. Keene e-mailed the following question to the Bureau of Building Codes and Standards of the Maine Department of Public Safety: “If the town chooses to opt out of enforcing MUBEC … are contractors still required to build in compliance with the codes?”

Bureau staff member Kathy Chamberlain-Robitaille replied a few days later: “Building contractors will not have to build to codes in the smaller towns who choose not to have a code. However, banks and some other financial institutions, as well as insurance companies, are going to be looking for inspection reports in order to hand out more money towards the construction, so it would behoove builders and contractors to build to code. It won’t be mandatory, but good practice to do so.”

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Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]