Real Estate Agent with Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate 303829;0225082372


There appears to be an ongoing debate about home inspectors citing to the local municipal building codewhen identifying certain existing conditions in resale homes undergoing a home inspection for purposes of a real estate buy/sell transaction. 

Glen Fisher, a home inspector in New Jersey, appears to advocate citing to the municipal building code as a foundation for writing defects in the condition of existing resale homes that do not comply with the present day municipal building code.  The title of his article in ActiveRain today, Building Codes and Home Inspection Standards Intertwined Mr. Fisher evidences his belief that home inspectors may or should fail existing homes for non-compliance to present municipal building codes. 

My question to Mr. Fisher is,

  • What is your mission?  Are you performing a visual home inspection or an inspection for compliance with the building code??? 
  • What does the Home Inspection Contract say?? 
  • Did the home buyer hire the inspector to learn the condition of the property, or to find out if the home meets present day building code?? 

I ADMIRE AND RESPECT HOME INSPECTORS and recommend a home inspection to every home buyer.  In fact, if an active duty military home buyer is short of funds, I'll happily pay for their home inspection.  I incorporated the recommendation of a home inspection for my buyers long before it was routine in my area of Maryland and Northern Virginia.  I have no hesitation to recommend that a buyer void a contract when the home inspection reveals defects that the seller refuses to cure or that would cause a long term loss of property value.  Of course, matters of safety are paramount when determining whether to seek a cure of defects or void the contract. 


Risk of safe occupancy and loss of value to the home buyer when buying without a home inspection

Risk to the broker/agent is significant when selling homes without a home inspection or with known defects.

As I understand it, the purpose of a home inspection is to provide a visual inspection and testing reportof the property structure and performance of the systems, i.e. heating, cooling, appliances, electrical, etc.  once the home inspector reaches into the purvue of the municipal (county/state) building codes, the only logical result would have to be . . . . . . . .  ANY HOME THAT DOESN'T MEET TODAY'S MUNICIPAL BUILDING CODES SHOULD BE DEMOLISHED AND REPLACED WITH NEW CONSTRUCTION. . . . .   Is that what we want????  It may seem like a stretch to say that, however, what other purpose would it serve for a home inspector, when inspecting a 10, 20, 50 or 150 year old home to reference the building code?? 

The AMERICAN SOCIETY OF HOME INSPECTORS' Standard of Practices states:

2.1  The purpose of these Standards of Practice is to establish a minimum and uniform standard for home inspectors who subscribe to these Standards of Practice. Home Inspections performed to these Standards of Practice are intended to provide the client with objective information regarding the condition of the systems and components of the home as inspected at the time of the home inspection.  (emphasis added) 

The inspection should cite in the report:

  1. those systems and components inspected that, in the professional judgment of the inspector, are not functioning properly, significantly deficient, unsafe, or are near the end of their service lives.  

THERE IS NO REFERENCE IN THE STANDARD OF PRACTICES FOR ASHI APPROVED HOME INSPECTORS THAT THE HOME INSPECTION REPORT in any way relies or should cite to the Municipal Building Code.  Are home owners required to subscribe to the changing building codes and continually remodel and upgrade their existing home to remain in compliance with the building code????? 


1.  REMODELING A HOME.  Generally, when the home owner wishes to improve or remodel.  Sadly, many home owners are negligent when making improvements to existing properties.  They, or the contractor whom they hire, violate the law when making certainimprovements, i.e., decks, perimiter fencing, electrical wiring or panel upgrading, some plumbing installation, most structural changes and far too many to list.  A visit or telephone call to the local building permit office will verify whether or not a permit is required. 

2.  TEAR DOWN PERMITS.  Actually, I have been advocating "rotating the crops" of older dilapidated homes and replace them with new construction on a house-by-house basis for decades.  In my area, many older neighborhood homes are sought by consumers and builders for the purpose of tearing down the existing home and building a new home on that site.  This new construction would have to be in compliance with the municipal building code. 

MR. FISHER STATES:  For example, decks are now required by code to be secured to houses with bolts.  In earlier years, most decks were secured with nails as no code specifically addressed deck construction.  As many of us now know, hundreds of decks have fallen from homes as nails were not designed for this type of load.

WHAT SUPPORTS A DECK??  In my experience, home inspectors who inspect decks consider more than whether a deck is secured by nails or bolts.  The home inspector will also look at the condition of the posts/beams on which the deck is supported on the concrete footers.  When inspecting the condition of the supporting beams, the existence of concrete footers and the manner in which the deck is attached to the house, the condition of the deck flooring and railings (curling, wood rot, popped nails or missing screws) the matter of soundness and safety is sufficient without the home inspector citing to the municipal code.  In fact, if the home inspector cites to the municipal code, it would logically follow that any repairs made to an existing deck would have to be inspected by a municipal code inspector.  What a tangled web we weave when we go outside the scope of our mission.   

I submit that by relying on the Home Inspection Contingencyor home inspection paragraph in a Contract of Sale, the home inspector is fulfilling their duty to accurately report on the condition of a property.  Further, by citing to the municipal building code, a home inspector introduces an unnecessary complication into what is a simple fact, the home inspector observed, tested and found certain defects which, when described through the Home Inspection Report, can be used by the buyer and their agent to require the seller to fix, decide to fix themselves, or void the contract


Home inspectors have a hard enough job without attempting to go outside their contractual mission.  Let the home inspectors inspect the house and let the code inspectors inspect new and permitted remodeled and improved properties. 

Real Estate agents have a hard enough job getting necessary repairs made by sellers who, if they cared about property condition would have made repairs prior to listing, without having a home inspector introduce the further complication of the (extra-contractual) municipal building code.

Home buyers have a hard enough job understanding the home inspection process without the intimidating and scare tactic of "THE CODE" as a concern in a home they wish to buy.

Courtesy, Lenn Harley, Broker, Homefinders.com, 800-711-7988, E-mail.

                                                       Home Inspections

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Re-Bloggged 3 times:

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Comments 56 New Comment

Joe Pryor
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties
Redbud Realty

This simple to me. If a home inspection was about current code compliance, and all homes had to meet the current standard, then home inspectors as well as Realtors would be out of business. Homes would not sell. Home owners could not possibly pay the price of this, and also, since code changes constantly, this would get out of control because for instance, I had a sprinkler system installed in 2005. At that time you could not put the works underground. The in 2006 the system burst, and the code had changed, so it had to go underground. Now the code has changed back. I agree that if a code was obviously violated, and a danger exist, changes should be made. But a house built in 1939 brought to 2010 codes, no way.

January 15, 2010 09:00 AM
Gregory Bain
Mezzina Real Estate & Insurance

Good Information. When I started out in Real Estate I had a company that would do the job for less. During the inspection - not to be labeled a "deal killer" - the inspector would find something wrong and state, "don't worry, they won't be able to get a Certificate of Occupancy without correcting this or that.

Well, the owner did get a Certificate of Occupancy and the buyer had no choice but to accept the house with the flaws. I don't think the inspection company is in business any longer (never see their trucks) but, I do make sure I am present during the inspections and have the buyers identify everything they want or need to have fixed in writing to the owner. Regardless of any building code inspections to be made by the township.

January 15, 2010 09:23 AM
Lenn Harley
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate

Gregory.  The statement that they couldn't get a U&O with the defect is not correct.  U&Os are routinely issued when there are defects remaining.  The U&O usually means that the property is SAFE to occupy.  Code inspectors don't inspect the whole house, they check on a particular part of the building permit. 

We've had many new homes with U&O and some items on the punch list remaining.  That's why we do punch lists.  Then the builder usually has about 30 days to complete the punch list.  Most construction supervisors will want to clear the punch list because they often have a bonus attached to getting the buyer's signature on the punch list even if items remain.

Folks who sell new homes will learn what the buyers can do and what they can't do in terms of closing.

Joe P.  That's the only thing that makes sense.  One of the home inspectors that we stopped using wrote a basement window that was 6 inches higher than the code.  GEEZ!  The house was 200 years old.  We cautioned him about writing it, but he wrote it anyway.  GEEZ!

January 15, 2010 09:31 AM
David Selman
Professional Home Inspector
Selman Home Inspections, Inc.

Lenn - You are exactly right in your post. While some "Standards of Practice" for a given area or state may be different, Home Inspectors ARE NOT code enforcement. As a home inspector myself, it is my job to know and understand building codes. Not to site them or report on building codes, rather as knowledge to perform a home inspection comparing the property (visually) to "perfect" conditions. 

When a defect is noted in a home inspection report, the "code" should not be sited (In Texas). But knowing and understanding the effect of a given building code helps a good inspector know how best to describe the defect without alarm or giving the impression of "Passing or Failing" code. For anyone interested, I back up my stance online to help educate my North Texas clients.

Great Post Lenn!

David Selman
Selman Home Inspection Company
"Accurate Investment Protection You Can Trust"

January 15, 2010 11:14 AM
Lenn Harley
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate

Great comment David S.

Thanks.  It isn't really too complicated.  We all have equally important jobs to do.

January 15, 2010 12:11 PM

Lenn Harley

Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
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