HOME INSPECTIONS ARE NOT BUILDING CODE COMPLIANCE INSPECTIONS.
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.
IT'S A MATTER OF RISK.
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:
- 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?????
WHEN DOES THE MUNICIPAL BUILDING CODE APPLY TO AN EXISTING PROPERTY?
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.
STICK TO THE MISSION.
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.
"I'm here and I'm beautiful. Inspect me"