We have all heard statements from sellers and builders about how this or that code not being applicable.
Just the other day someone stated that a certain Washington State Energy Code was not applicable for the houses he was building because that particular aspect of the code “was not being enforced” by that jurisdiction.
That incident, prompted me to attempt to clear up something about the codes—and to shout if from the precipice I sit on.
If your state has adopted a particular code, it does not make one bit of difference whether there is someone hanging out around the corner with binoculars to monitor whether those codes are being met or not. When your particular state adopts a particular code it is the responsibility of the persons doing the work that involves those codes to do the work to the minimum standards of those codes.
I would be very surprised to hear that any state has a clause in their adoptions of the codes that says something like, “If any jurisdiction cannot enforce these codes—they are not required to be followed.”
That is pretty much the end of the story.
So, when someone says, “we don’t have jurisdictional inspections or inspectors here,” or “My jurisdiction doesn’t enforce that here,” or “This jurisdiction does not require that here,” you can pretty much rest assured that someone may not know what they are talking about.
While codes can be amended to be made “more restrictive” by jurisdictions within a State, only the State reserves the right to make codes “less restrictive” or not even adopt them at all.
The particular incident I was referring to earlier in the post was about the missing “Energy Compliance Sticker” that is required to be located on or within 3’ of the house electrical service panel. This sticker has lots of information on it about the homes energy efficiency. It will have the amounts of insulation, the efficiency of the heating equipment, the results of the required blower door test and the results of the required duct test.
I look for these stickers on all new construction homes.
Had the sticker been there, I would not likely have found the missing weather-stripping on the attic access hatch or the loose soffit at the gas fireplace overhang that was allowing a flood of cold air into the building. I would not have found them because they would have been fixed before I got there in order to meet the required blower door test.
Builders are required to meet the codes adopted by the states that the work is being done in as well as to meet the requirements of manufacturers’ installation instructions.
Lack of jurisdictional enforcement is not a “hall pass” around the building codes.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board