Seattle Home Inspector's Blog

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But they gave me a "hall Pass"----now leave me alone!

We have all heard statements from sellers and builders about how this or that code not being applicable.

Shouting it from the roof topsJust 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.

Energy Compliance StickerThe 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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Seattle Home Inspector

 

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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board

Comment balloon 26 commentsCharles Buell • February 20 2014 06:46AM

Comments

Most of our building codes are county wide and vary from county to county, although not by much. 

That said, compliance is not a choice.   It's mandatory.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Morning Lenn....AR Looks a little different this morning to me, but I still enjoyed your post!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) almost 6 years ago

It's incredible to me that a builder would circumvent the code because it's not enforced.  Haven't they heard of inspectors, at the very least?

Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Hi Charles - That's interesting, and perhaps explains why, on occasion, our good inspectors find things that we would expect the builders to have done correctly and/or the municipal inspectors to have discovered. And it is yet another good reason to inspect new construction homes.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) almost 6 years ago

Charles, I've heard the same thing from three reputable licensed contractors that counties differ in their inspection requirements. I don't get it other than it's the bottom line; if it costs more for a builder to build to code and it's not enforced by the county inspector than why would the builder build to code? 

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) almost 6 years ago

Charlie, Great post. And this goes for anyone. Just because you do not know that a code exists does not exempt you from it.

It is up to each individual doing work to know what they are doing. We all know where that goes ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

I'm sure they also count on very few buyers paying for an inspection of a new home. Good thing yours did, and I hope you bringing attention to the deficiencies helped them realize the harm they were doing.

Posted by Jim Beitz (Keller Williams Success Realty) almost 6 years ago

Gosh - when I hear things like this I just shake my head...

Posted by Jill Saddler, Draper Utah Real Estate Professional - 25 years+! almost 6 years ago

Cool Stuff! I think Inspectors should find better ways on detecting issues like this

Posted by Michael Ha Elmhurst, Woodside, Maspeth (Rego Park, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, Corona, Middle Village) almost 6 years ago

You just have to love (NOT) people know so much more than you do.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) almost 6 years ago

This is why I always recommend a home inspection....even if it IS new construction!  Thank you for the information.

Posted by Karen Feltman, Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group) almost 6 years ago

Here the local jurisdictions ammended out the sticker. The attic weather strip is a good one. It's minor but should be done. Even if thre is not enforce ment most buidlers insurance require them to build to local codes. So they could be on the hook if they ever put in a claim against the insurance.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 6 years ago

Lenn, is that true in your area the individual counties adopt codes and not the state?

Margaret, it seems too odd to me as well

Dick, thanks, and yes, there is never a good reason to not get new construction inspected

Pamela, I think it is very unsual that individual counties or cities in a state would have the power to make codes "less restrictive" than what the state adopts and amends

Don, yup

Utah, around here I would think that very few new homes do not get inspections

Jill, it is pretty strange

Michael, it is hard to keep up with it all and some inspectors are more interested in the codes than others

Tammy :)

Karen, while the issues are different sometimes---they are just as important

Rob, so you have no state adoption of the codes and/or local jurisdictions are allowed to make the codes less restrive as they desire?  Seems so odd to me.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Don't think lack of enforcement is an adequate reason to not do something to code. Warrants a call to the building department.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) almost 6 years ago

Yew meen dey inforcet?  Whut?  Or nawt atymes?  Whuuut?

New construction, yesterday, the Energy Guide sticker was removed from the furnace and water heater.  All I can do it point it out. 

Why did they remove it?  Turns out my suspicions were correct - the builder skimped on the energy standard they promised!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Bill, there were calls for sure :)

Jay, do you have blower door and duct testing there?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

I know enough to hire up on this subject....good awareness post

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 6 years ago

That's like saying, if a cops not around, it's perfectly fine to break the law. That is stupid logic. Or plain illogical. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

The RESNET inspections (and inspectors) here do not have a good reputation.  I don't know if they are "supposed" to do blower doors, but they don't spend enough time on a job to do one.  I've never seen a sticker that says one was done.

Those devices need to be set right or there is no real information gleaned as the info is so inaccurate.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

And Jim, if the cop isn't around who sees us breaking the law?  Is the law broken if no one sees it done?  Here say can't be used in court.

Kind of like the tree falling in the woods, with nobody around...  if nobody heard it, there was no sound.

But my favorite baseball player sure had a great stance and swing!  I'm disappointed to hear she isn't batting .405, like Uncle Ted.

;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

And Charlie, that iguana sure posed for you a lot!  Is that her SI front cover pose?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Jay, actually her sister has a wicked swing, but has no interest in baseball :( 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

I've heard it said that if one does not want to do something, any excuse will do. Cutting corners is a time-honored tactic and not just in construction.

Posted by Wayne Johnson, San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale (Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS®) almost 6 years ago

Richie, good plan :)

Jim, "dumsencical"

Jay, I agree that there are lots of problems with blower door tests but this one application of finding grose building air bypasses is a no-brainer

Jay, if there is no sound in the forest can the tree have possibly fallen?

Jay, the Iguana is indeed a poser

Wayne, it really is :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Charles- it seems so simpleand yet some people do interpret it to mean that "... as long as no one will catch me."  

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) almost 6 years ago

Kathy, and the further one away is from jurisdictional inspectors the more of a free for all it becomes it seems.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

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