Grandfathered In

What do I tell a client, when they tell me that the things that I am writing up in a report are Grandfathered in. Such as lack of egress windows, poor baluster spacing etc?

Roy Drangstveit

Client telling you?
I thought your were the one doing the telling!
You write what you want. What they do with the information is up to them.

If they don’t have kids, spacing doesnt matter.
If they are not using the room as a bedroom it doesnt matter if you can’t get out the window.

You don’t always know these things, so just report it.

I would call them just recommendations, not requirements. Tell him this is your job to inform him about these issues. It is his job to decide if they are a concern to him…
Our SOPs requires us to check and report the baluster spacing.

I tell my customer i do NOT code inspect. I look for what i think are defects and safety concerns. Those things cant be grand fathered Only Fixed.

Explain to your client that you are observing and reporting based upon today’s building standards.

Let him know that “grandfathering” is always a personal/political decision made by the local AHJ and can be as inconsistently applied as from house to house; accordingly, you eliminate these inconsistencies by applying the current building standards (not codes).

Your a better at politics then i am.

Here’s what I tell them about “Grandfathering”


If the response to an area of concern or a recommendation in our report is, "

Well, they didn’t have that (or they didn’t do that) when the house was built," or that it was “grandfathered”, I usually know that. When it comes to home repairs, “Grandfathered” is a term often tossed out by people who care more about their wallet than about you and your family’s safety: as in “That 8 inch gap in the balcony railing doesn’t need to be fixed because it’s grandfathered. It was okay to do it that way when this house was built.” Is it going to comfort you, when your child falls through that gap and is badly injured, that the size of the gap was “Grandfathered”? All “Grandfathered” really means is that no one can “force” you to change it, repair it, or replace it. Only you can choose what level of risk you want to live with. People with young children who could fall thru that 8 inch gap “should” choose to ensure it is changed to a safer gap but no one is going to force a change except you.

Since whatever issue was “grandfathered”, our knowledge has increased considerably concerning safety in the home. I believe that you should be safe in your home and that taking care of your home should be as easy as possible. So I will recommend things that they didn’t have or do years ago simply to keep you safe or help you take care of your home. What’s most important to me is that you and your family are as safe as possible in your home. Only you can choose what level of risk you want to live with and expose your family to.

This is what I’ve used in the past

“Grandpa’s dead, the “safety enhancement upgrade” items noted in the report are there to potentially prevent the same from happening to current or future occupants.”

As a Grandfather myself, I call out issues as recommended safety upgrades.

As a Grandfather myself, I call out issues reccomended as safety upgrades.

Asbestos transite vent pipe comes to mind…

I recommend ________________ for enhanced safety.

I concur.

I always tell my clients that they are the homeowner. If they do not want to upgrade for safety reasons, then it’s their choice. When someone gets hurt…I told you so. Look at my report.

We simply locate the dragons, someone else decides whether, what, when and how to slay them

Just had one the other day, the client calls back wanting codes on bath vent ducted to the outside and T&p valve piping. When I asked why, she said that the seller was mad and stated that the house past when built and it past the home inspection that they got 4 years ago. I said that I was sorry to hear that but both items are still incorrect and should be corrected, but as far as who does it is between the two of you I have completed my job. My client ( an attorney ) is ok with this but the seller is still mad they have already spent $700.00 on repairs and there is more to do. :smiley:

Totally agree!

“Grandfathering” is just a local political term that means “we do not have the manpower, budget or ability to make sure that old houses are as safe and of the same quality as new houses, so you are on your own and we wash our hands of any responsibility if something bad happens. After all, we are the government and have the ability to do this. But no one else does.”

If it does not meet current national construction standards, call it out.

Hope this helps;

I agree also, all my comments are to the best standard and every home is compared to that. Being grandfathered only plays to if someone is or is not required to fix the defect. I stay out of this(unless cornered and threatened as in my code thread). Any time you can just let the 2 sides duke it out, you are better off. As was said to me “you don’t have a dog in this fight”.:slight_smile:

While we are on the subject of grandfathering…

I don’t worry about grandfathering. I recommend GFCI’s as an upgrade, but you are talking about safety issues. If it were a 2nd floor balcony with baluster spacing of 7" you would recommend a repair with spacing no more than 4" wouldn’t you? What if the 1906 home has no smoke detectors, do you grandfather it or recommend that they be installed?

If the room is a bedroom, it is a bedroom and must meet the egress requirement. I don’t care if it is currently being used as an office or not, it will likely be returned to a bedroom at some time. Should you not call that out, it will be on your shoulders when the old couples grandchild perishes in a fire because they could not get out. Should they sell the home before your limitation in the inspection agreement runs out, you may be paying for the windows yourself. I also inform my clients that if basement windows do not meet the egress requirement, it can not be safely used as a bedroom.

On the business end, this is a referral business. You do not want another inspector to find something major that existed when you performed your inspection and you did not mention. Abad reputation is not good for business.

It is your job to call it to the attention of the client. It is not your job to tell anyone what must be repaired. You have no enforcement powers except the influence on the buyer to sign the check at close of escrow. If your client wants the seller to paint the house purple, they can contract for that in the purchase contract. Codes has nothing to do with anything. You point things out, if it is a concern to the buyer then the seller needs to consider fixing things or sell the house to someone else.

When you become the one demanding repair by the way you write your report, then you cross the line.

This is a bit impractical unless you want the gov’t contolling all of your life the same way. For example, in Canada, we re-issue a new national builing code code every 5 years but between code cycles, usually in January of each of the intervening years, updates are issued as they become adopted by the code officials. So if every January a notice from the code bureaucracy comes in the mail saying this year you must upgrade this, this …and this, there would be another Boston Tea Party at city halls around the nation. The mandate of codes is: Public health and safety &Stuctural sufficiency so many changes may be considered “Necessary”.