Anyone else see an issue with this

During an inspection today I looked at the rear deck stairs that only had a guard rail on one side. The side next to the building was about 18 inches from the building. This was more than enough room for me to fall, never mind a child. The townhouse development with well over 100 units built in 1978 all had the same set up. Im not sure how this could have passed any building inspection when it was originally built. The realtor is concerned about the FHA appraiser requiring the guard rail and the HOA saying no since it is the exterior that they are responsible for. Has anyone had any experience with something like this.

Report it as a potential safety hazard and recommend one, to your client, for enhanced safety and keep moving on your inspection would be one way to get your point across and stay out of realtor negotiations, codes, FHA appraisers and HOAs.

There appear to be other potential safety hazards on the decks, too.

According to the following section of the IRC a handrail would be required.

“R312.1 (Guards) Porches, balconies, ramps or raised floor surfaces located more than 30 inches above the floor or ground below shall have guards not less than 36 inches in height. Open sides of stairs with a total rise of more than 30 inches above the floor or ground below shall have guards not less than 34 inches in height measured vertically from the nosing of the treads. Porches and decks which are enclosed with insect screening shall be equipped with guards where the walking surface is located more than 30 inches from the floor or grade below.”

Although local codes may vary I would consider it a potential safety issue and call it out as such.


I know that this may not answer your question, but HOA issues can be tricky. My first thought is that this was built in 1978 and there are over 100 units. There must be another unit that has been sold with FHA financing. Maybe contacting the HOA, or their management company would get you the answer that you’re looking for (or the REALTOR could do the leg work for their client). I know the desire to try to find the information that your client and REALTOR are looking for, but in the end, it is just your responsibility to report what you find and let them deal with the details.

I live in a condo complex that was built in the mid 70’s and my wife is on the HOA board. She doesn’t like sorting through all of the emails, so they come to me and I filter out the important items from all of the fluff. It is interesting to say the least. A few board members are like Nazi’s trying to control every little detail, but most of them are very practical in the way they do business.

Last year I was inspecting a condo that was about the same age as ours. The client was not able to attend the inspection, but sent her father, an engineer, to the inspection. He followed me around with his notepad and pencil, writing down every issue that I pointed out, and followed with the question, “is that the homeowner or HOA responsibility”? It was actually pretty entertaining to me. He even at one point stated that he was surprised that when someone sells a property, they aren’t required to bring the property up to current codes. I didn’t mean to laugh out loud, but I did, and then explained to him that nobody would be able to afford to sell their home if they had to bring it up to current codes.

Anyway, a long post, but it brings me up to what I came up with to include in an inspection report when I’m inspecting a condo. This is just the last part after describing items that I don’t include in a condo inspection.

*It is recommended that you research what components are the responsibility of the home owner (co-owner) and which components fall under the responsibility of the HOA. There are general items that most HOA’s cover, but each HOA has its’ own Master Deed that describes, in detail, where the responsibility lies.

Also keep in mind that although an item may be the responsibility of the HOA, it is up to the Home Owner’s Association as to how, and when, an issue will be addressed.*

Why are you involved in this? Are you a lawyer-inspector?

Your client can put in his RE Contract that FHA acceptance is a contingency to the contract.

Now there is nothing to loose sleep over…