How do you deal with different standards in different cities?

I recently had a call back from a client regarding a call they had made to the local AHJ. They called to follow up on a deck attachment which I called out, but the AHJ said was acceptable at the time of construction. After quite a bit of research I found that he was correct. The client was polite but suggested in the future I keep the AHJ’s opinion handy and not call out this defect. I didn’t care to discuss it so I thanked him and ended the call.

This has happened a couple time recently and I’m wondering how others handle it. Here’s the standards for only the city of Peoria where this house is located:- 2006 International Mechanical Code

  • International Fuel Gas Code/2006
  • International Energy Conservation Code/2006
  • 2008 National Electrical Code NFPA 70
  • International Building Code/2006
  • 2006 IRC
  • State of Illinois Plumbing Code
  • International Property Maintenance Code
  • International Existing Building Code/2006

Keep in mind, these are just the standards which are currently adopted in one city out of the six counties which I service. My question is, when you know that a certain city has a stance on a certain issue do you write it differently in your report, do you make a note of that exception or a verbal mention of it to your client, do you ignore it altogether and write the report as you normally would, or does it depend entirely upon the issue?

And in general, do you try to keep track of all the standards currently being used in your area?

I work in ten counties in Southern California with a population of about 20 million, maybe more, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Palm Springs, Irvine, etc.

There’s no way I could keep up with what each jurisdiction is doing, and I don’t mind telling my Clients that. I tell them that I simply go by the latest codes, but even that might not be right because a new codebook of one thousand pages might have come out last week and I haven’t read it yet, much less comprehended it or memorized it. Thus, it is possible that an AHJ might override my opinion, and that’s alright. S/he has the final say.

As an example, I know of an exception for the City of Chula Vista re water heater TPR drain pipes. The AHJ there allows a reduction in size from the valve itself, allows up to twelve 90° connectors, and allows a total length of no more than fifty feet. The first time I saw that taken to its absolute maximum, I was floored. However, the AHJ confirmed that it was okay, and he stated his confirmation in writing on City letterhead, signed and dated. I had no problem with that, but now that I know Chula Vista is weird, I tell my Clients in that jurisdiction that the AHJ allows it but it’s not the best or safest installation and I recommend differently.

Did it terminate in the neighbor’s 2nd floor shower? :slight_smile:

I never call out any codes with the only exception being fire -safety.
My take in Illinois is to use Illinois codes as a basis in reporting and simply use recommendation as a key term.

Cameron we are 'State Licensed" not “County Licensed” or “Town Licensed”.

Just found this too. Every Illinois city and the standards they use. I might condense it down to the 20 largest cities near me and laminate it on a small card.

It would be nice to hand it to a client as I mention the impossibility of knowing every standard for every city throughout the past 100 years.

I’m with Bob and Russel. I don’t attempt to keep up with All of the various local codes or what year(s) they were enforced. I inspect to nationally recognized standards, current standards, best practice, etc. In your case what if the deck collapses, after you failed to mention the “defect”, are they going to come after you or the local AHJ? I’m sure you know the answer.

Cam do yourself a favor and shelve that thought.
If you have the information to hand the client you seem to imply or project you know what is contained here in.

When outside Cook County I am aware there are a majority of towns that allow that extension cord spaghetti mess AKA Romex [size=]as an example [/size] and I have a difficult time not wanting to write it up so I do suggest they inquire if it is allowed through their township AHJ.

Have no problem writing that because it is honestly my heartfelt advice.

Cameron, do yourself a favor and run your company any damn way you want. I think you should learn as much as you can. If you know certain things in certain areas, then go for it.

Do what you know is right for you and your company.

Personally, I try to familiarize myself with the local codes of areas I serve - and I cover at least the same areas as Russel Ray. However, I take a bit different approach than he does.

CA codes are a minimum standards for any municipality within the state. Cities can adopt stricter standards (which many opt to do), but I have never seen an exception where a locality was allowed to reduce or disqualify a particular standard that is contained in the state code.

When I am unfamiliar with a particular area, I apply the state code with a disclaimer that the local codes may require more stringent standards and all repairs should be performed by contractors familiar with this particular jurisdiction.

With regard to Russel’s example of the TPR reduction, I would write that up as a defect each and every time, regardless of the AHJ’s interpretation, as this violates every model code, not to mention manufacturers requirements.

There are many communities out in the boondocks that reduce or disqualify a particular standard.

I remember a couple of years after the October 2003 fires when everyone was rebuilding out near Julian. One new home had some serious deficiencies, including the lack of GFCI protection in the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and exterior. I noted them, and the owner called the electrician to come back and correct things. Well, the electrician said that there was nothing wrong according to the local codes and that the AHJ had signed off on everything. Eventually, I met the electrician, the owner, and the AHJ at the property. After showing everyone the various codes in the actual code books, the AHJ looked at me, spit in his spittoon, and said, “Well, sonny, that’s just not the way we do things out here.” I lost that battle, but I keep recommending GFCI’s.

We can only do the best we can, but I always tell my folks that we are not “Code Enforcement”. That we really are only there to give them a sense of the conditions of the home on that day. In my state (Vermont), a few of the municipalities have Building Code enforcement (it is becoming a growing number). Most of their role centers around fire and safety. A lot of it came about due to loss of life during some significant events. Burlington is a college town with a ton of rentals. You can’t be a bad landlord in Burlington and you better have a permit for anything you do. They have codes that are over and above National Code on a lot of things. So, every town here can be a little different. It really fires Realtors up as the folks in Stowe could care less about what the folks in Burlington do. Stowe, being a ski town with a lot of high end homes and rentals. In fact, I had a Realtor from Stowe come at me the other day with just that stance. I told her that all municipalities really start with National Code and tailor it to their specific local area but fire and safety is absolute and uniform no matter where you are in the state. The state actually conducts all fire and safety inspections on rentals, condos, new construction and renovations of public structures and regular inspections with local municipalities. Rental and college kids and bad landlords tend to drive a lot of it here and I would imagine any place.

I have yet, me personally, had a AHJ write on a letterhead something that is LESS than code or manufactures requirement. They all talk a good game, but when I ask for something on their letterhead and position to be written, it never has happened.

I would hate to go to court and say, well Jim at the county told me it was OK. I don’t ever think that would fly.

I recently had a dispute over windows that were not tempered glass and were at the floor line of a house.

Days of emails back and forth between me, the owners, the Realtor’s and attorneys…They never replaced the windows and the City never gave a letter and I never swayed from my position. I still have emails out there saying it is wrong.

When I can PROVIDE documentation stating my point and all they can do is use WORDS…I never back down. SHOW me, is my mentality. If it local ‘CODE’ then it has to be written, no?

As Russ indicated, it’s pretty unlikely that there is a “written standard” that would allow for a lesser standard than what the state requires. The fact that an uneducated AHJ allows for something that is substandard, does not mean the locality “adopted” that standard, it simply means their AHJ is not qualified for his/her position.

Codes, such as HI licensing laws, are a basic, minimal standard. Why quote them? Follow your SOP’s. This is just one reason why SOP’s were created.

“Safety concerns are listed on the report, because older homes may not be as safe and new current ideas are better than what they were when the home was built…”

If your reports are not written based on applicable standards (i.e. codes), then they’re worthless.

Some actually believe that our profession has very little to do with codes! I believe our whole profession is based on codes. But that is just me…who knows?

I agree 100% with Jeff. When someone questions me on a defect, that is not obvious, I better have something to back up what I am saying…that 99.9% of the time is a code reference.

We all are the mercy of the local AHJ if you read the preface to the codes it states Codes are at the inturpation of the code official:shock:

I have one city where the AHJ allows attic A-coil drains to drain into attic plumbing vent and the a WH downspout to discharge into a plastic drain rated for 180 degrees but I still write them up

Basically true. However, each jurisdiction adopts the codes for its jurisdiction. Some here, mainly out in the boondocks, are still using codes from twenty years ago. Why? Because they have all the code books from 1994, they know what’s in those code books, they are confident that they know what’s in those code books and how to apply the code, and buying the new codes and updating everyone every three years can get really expensive, especially for these rural areas.

Thus, the local AHJ putting his opinion on city paper and signing and dating it is not wrong because his jurisdiction has not adopted any new codes since 1994. Therefore, nothing that he approves is less than code in his jurisdiction. It’s just that he has a different code that he goes by.

We have that same problem as home inspectors. I inspect to the latest codes, regardless of which codes the jurisdiction has adopted. I explain that to my Clients, and that the latest codes are often the safest codes.

Not necessarily, but a supermajority of the time. I explain it thusly:

Codes get updated every three years. However, as with any changes in life, people get to vote on any code changes. Say there are 10,000 people who get to vote. Last year, 5001 people said no to the change. This year, 5001 people said yes to the change. Does that mean that the first year it wasn’t a useful change? No. Often it means that it was too expensive to implement and that people wanted more time to prepare for the change. They had an extra year, and now 5001 people approved the change.

Some of my towns don’t even have local zoning laws. In towns like this, it is nothing to find homes with numerous code violations. All you can really do is call them out, reference the National or state code that applies and cover yourself. That is all you are really doing aside from providing a quality, in-depth inspection. If there are no teeth to it, people can really do as they please. The fine line is with the Realtors that realize this and want you to be extremely careful with what you are calling out. They form the misconception that since there is no oversight, we shouldn’t be making a big deal about things. I have that conversation with everyone, what my role is, that I am not code enforcement but that I am going to identify those areas and people can proceed how they wish. In the end, that is what they will do anyway. As long as I am giving them the right info, protecting them and protecting me, the circle is complete. That is the best that we can do in these scenarios in my mind.

I have little concern of what an AHJ might have approved in the past.

example:CSST was not formerly “required” to be bonded to earthing the system.

Do you think I give it a pass when I come across and unbonded one?

We are paid for our knowledge and opinions.

Being OK/acceptable in the past has little to do with the present or what I recommend.