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  1. #66
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Western Maryland

    Default Re: Code Enforcement vs.Home Inspector?

    Interesting topic. I am fairly new to this board and have seen quite a range of inspectors' style, language, and techniques, with code references being a big one.

    Over the years, I have been a Building Official (construction codes), a Code Enforcement Officer (nuisance & zoning), Municipal Rental Housing Inspector, and of course Home Inspector. I always cited specific code references in all of the governmental positions, but I never cite specific code references during a home inspection.

    I live and work in a small market/population area. New construction is few and far between and around here, 'new' means built after 1980 or so. The vast majority of the homes I inspect were built before WWII and a large portion before WWI. On top of that, none of the jurisdictions I inspect in even had their own building code inspectors until the late-1990's (I implemented the inspection program at one municipality - it was 1998). The only inspections were State mandated plumbing and electric code compliance.

    Fifteen-odd years ago, when I started doing private home inspections, I joined the regional ASHI affiliate. For me, it was mostly a waste of time, because like here, guys kept talking about code violations. So, when one guy said he 'failed' a house (red flag #1 - we don't pass or fail a house) for having wall receptacles 6'-3/4" apart instead of 6' - I almost died laughing. I look at houses that still have the old gas light fixtures in place, using the piping for electrical conduit, and extension cords stapled to the walls because it didn't have ANY electric system when it was built. I just say "unsafe by current standards" or "strongly recommend upgrade to current standards".

    Knob-and-tube is common around here. I still see many fuse panels, and even the really old ones with fused neutrals. How would you even begin to cite code references on a house with multiple generations of wiring styles and components?

    The same for the rest of the components. Ever see or hear of a 'plank framed' house? What do you say when you see a rubble-trench foundation in a lowered dirt-floored cellar? How about a 'floor furnace'? 'Gravity furnace'? 'Pot burner'?

    What I do is: identify what is there; determine if it is working as intended; determine if it is safe even if it IS working as intended; report accordingly. I often say 'working as intended, but obsolete; Upgrade to current standards recommended'. I could have every code book ever written and still be unable to point to what legal standard was in place at time of construction/modification.

    My practice relies on a lot of judgement. I've seen other inspector's reports that I swear are written to avoid ANY judgement on the part of the inspector.

    OREP Home Inspector E&O Insurance 2
    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  2. #67
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Southern Vancouver Island

    Default Re: Code Enforcement vs.Home Inspector?

    I avoid direct reference to code in my report by using "standard practice", "current safety standards", "safety hazard","shock hazard" and things to that effect.

    A while back, my clients said they wanted to legalize an illegal suite in the basement. I wrote that I don't perform a code inspection, but the wiring to the kitchen counters will not pass a formal electrical inspection, and went on to describe what had been done. Called for an electrician to make repairs. Anyway, that's how I approach those questions.

    We need to know the codes and we need to know when they came in to effect. But the older housing is always going to be a balance of what is practical and what is truly a hazard for our clients. Smoke alarms is a good example. GFCI in the bathroom is another.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455

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