From the Field: 7 Things Code Inspectors Wish Homeowners Knew
Code inspectors and local building departments can be valuable resources to homeowners who are looking to ensure that all building codes and safety regulations are being followed.
Owning a house is a big responsibility, and it is important to ensure your home is safe and up to code – not just for yourself and your family, but also for your community.
Code inspectors and local building departments work every day to protect the public through their commitment to building safety. Their experience in the field can be invaluable to homeowners who are looking to ensure that all building codes and safety regulations are being followed.
We spoke to code inspectors and professionals within the code enforcement industry to hear their top tips from their time in the field.
Pete Roque (4LEAF, INC. – CA)
Pete Roque is the Director of Code Enforcement for 4LEAF INC. and has over a decade of experience in the code enforcement industry.
To build on your property, you are going to need a building permit.
“A common violation I see is homeowners building without permits. They make additions, alterations or repairs to their properties without obtaining the required permits or inspections and this could result in some major complications.
If someone builds or fixes something without getting a permit, this can be dangerous because if the work is done incorrectly, it could make the building unsafe. For example, if a new room is added without a permit and the walls aren’t strong enough, the room could collapse, or if the electrical wiring isn’t done properly, it could cause a fire.
When code enforcement agencies get a permit, inspectors are called to check the work and make sure it’s done the right way. This helps keep everyone who lives or works in the building safe.”
You need to follow your local zoning regulations; they are there for a reason.
“Operating a business in a residential area or using your property for purposes not allowed by local zoning regulations, can be problematic. Zoning regulations, like those found in the International Zoning Code® (IZC), are a blueprint for how cities and towns are organized. They help to separate different types of land use to create a more balanced and functional community where people can live, work and play.
Changing your home to commercial property can cause problems. Business activities often generate more noise and traffic than homes, especially if they have customers or deliveries coming and going throughout the day. This can make the neighborhood noisier, more congested and less safe for pedestrians, especially children. It can also negatively impact the property values for nearby homes.”
Be aware of property maintenance issues, maintaining your property is unavoidable.
“Enforcing codes, like the International Property Maintenance Code® (IPMC), are one of the more frequent responsibilities of code enforcement officials.
Some of the most common property maintenance violations are things like overgrown landscaping, trash and inoperable vehicles. Overgrown or dead vegetation can become a safety risk as high weeds can be a fire hazard and invite pests. Also, dead trees pose a risk of injury or damage to nearby properties.
Trash and debris accumulation not only looks unsightly but can also attract pests, create unpleasant odors, create mold conditions and pose health risks.
Neglecting exterior maintenance can lead to safety concerns and decreased property values for the entire neighborhood. Unsafe structures also pose a risk to public safety, as they could collapse or cause accidents. By addressing these concerns and respecting local regulations, we can create a better living environment for everyone in our community.”
Christine Rose (Fargo – ND)
Christine Rose is the Assistant Director of the City of Fargo Inspections Division.
Check for open permits or violations on properties you are looking to purchase.
“It is important to check with your city to see if there are open permits or open violations on the property you are looking to buy. I’ve seen someone buy a home that was in the process of being demolished because it was a dangerous building. Now, that is an extreme scenario, but there have been many situations where a home changed hands but there were open violations and open permits that the seller never fixed.”
Check to see if the property is in a flood plain.
“In Fargo, we have our own ordinance regarding flood plains, and I imagine we are not the only community out there that has one.
Check with the city of the property you are considering purchasing to see if it is in the flood plain. Even if it is not next to a river or body of water, there still may be restrictions on building in the area.
A flood plain is defined as a low-lying area that is prone to flooding. Ordinances regarding flood plains help to ensure that homes in these areas are designed and constructed in a way to minimize their vulnerability in the face of a possible flood.”
Patrick Parsley (Hiawatha – IA)
Patrick Parsley is the Community Development Director and Building Official for the City of Hiawatha, IA. He was also a former member of the Code Council’s Board of Directors.
Understand that home inspectors are a valuable resource to you.
“Homeowners should remember that home inspectors are their friends and can be a valuable resource. As public servants, inspectors are there to assist you with any building issues; ensuring safety, durability, sanitation and fire prevention for you and for future owners and neighbors.
Inspectors strive to respect owners’ rights while, at the same time, carrying out the responsibility to protect the city as a whole. Keep in mind, almost 50 percent of homeowners stay in their homes for less than ten years, but the home will most likely last more than 50 years.
When planning and constructing a home, it is well worth the permit fees to have the “unbiased” asset of an inspector on your team. From planning to inspections, building departments assist homeowners in getting a project to meet current safety standards by reviewing designs, observing installations and working cooperatively with all facets of the construction team.”
Permits save you time and money in the long run.
“Homeowners should remember asking for permission is usually easier, less expensive and far less time-consuming than asking for forgiveness. When a project has to start over or is stalled because of work without a permit, no one is the winner.”
The International Code Council is Here to Help
The International Code Council’s codes and standards play an important role in creating safe, affordable and sustainable structures. Homeowners can read up on the International Codes® and consult with a local professional before starting a project to avoid violations.
The Code Council’s Building Safety Month website offers resources on the importance of safe, sustainable and resilient buildings. Visit the website here.