Bringing components up to current codes in California

It’s my understanding that in California, a home owner is only required to bring components of there home up to current codes when they remodeled.

Is that still the case? If so the next portion of this post will be irrelevant.

I didn’t feel like some parts of the course weren’t specific as to whether certain things should be reported as a defect or recommendation. I felt like some were just stating codes and we’re not code inspectors. I’ll give a specific example, but this could be applied to any trade or field. Bedrooms circuits are now required to be AFCI protected whether that be in the form of a breaker or receptacle. If this is not the case in a particular home, this should not be a defect but a recommendation instead correct? Let’s say a home owner wanted to make their master bedroom larger. They move an interior wall. Now that wall needs to be brought up to code correct? Even if the contractor installed regular receptacles and left the standard 20amp breakers in the panel and the local county inspector missed that, it should still be written as a recommendation even though we know the wall has been moved.

I know that this is kind of a grey area. I’m trying to make sure that I understand where to distinctly draw that line and do fair and accurate inspections. I’m asking this specifically in California, and I understand that making the courses specific to every state would be difficult at best.

Yes, I kind of agree, questioning why are some items considered a defect and others not. My experience as retired code enforcement in LA is that yes, there are non-conforming rights on enforcement, and there are also some items that are required when selling a property. In California smoke detectors are to be updated “for locations” when a property is sold. Also bathrooms with old windows in or near tub need safety glazing. But we still wouldn’t cite a Code on our report, for one thing there’s alot of codes, and exemptions that you will not want to get bound up in. As far as GFCI & AFCI you could state that “even though this is an as built condition, that according to todays typical building standards, lack of AFCI and GFCI protection is considered a deficiency.” Then also state “although no requirement exists to do so, it is recommended the client consider having a qualified electrician evaluate and upgrade branch circuits to include GFCI and AFCI protection for enhanced safety.” So, now with that, you have called it out as a defect but also clarified it as a recommendation.


It is not a defect. As a recommendation, adding AFCI/GFCI, is considered an “upgrade.”

Code in most states is used when permits must be pulled. In Baltimore County, for example, a permit must be pulled for remodeling a kitchen or bathroom (plumbing , electrical). Permits are also needed for decks, accessory structures, additions, HVAC, water heaters etc. Don;t know about California but each county / jurisdiction in Maryland has different requirements / adopted codes.

There have been many discussions about this, but in my opinion it is best not to even use the word ‘defect’ in your report. My reports merely say “repair/replace.” The narrative for that item will describe why it is wrong; damaged, worn out, improperly installed, etc.

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It’s not your job to inspect remodels. I only inspect installed components. How would you have any first-hand knowledge that there was a remodel?

Been to many homes where it was claimed in the listing. In these cases looking up permits is helpful to the client. In some cases it is obvious (flips).

Then there is “rehabilitated.” IEBC considers rehabilitated to include a change in occupancy and use. This occurs when a property changes from R3 to R1 or R2. Inspectors in Maryland who also do rental properties (R1, R2) in Baltimore City need to know this (most don’t). For those that think the IBC doesn’t apply to residential properties, it is the only place where use and occupancy definitions occur.

In a remodel, in general, the only things that have to be brought up to code are the portions remodeled.

As for AFCI, it gets tricky, because not every county is exactly the same.
Los Angeles only requires AFCI if the outlet is new, but pre-existing outlets do not have to be upgraded. If you move a wall, is that outlet pre-existing, or new? Debate-able at best. LIke, the city would pass it away. But if you add on a new room, then, they’ll want to see AFCI.

And also, code is not based on when an item was completed, but on when the permit was issued.