Referring to code

I know we have been told a million times that we as home inspectors are not code inspectors. But when is it appropriate or maybe even necessary to mention a code violation in our report? Example: Is it ever proper to say, “The state plumbing code requires that discharge piping from the temperature/pressure relief valve should be…” ? How general should we be with our comments? Is it ever advisable to reference a specific code–IPC, IRC, IBC, etc…?

Use a euphemism such as, “xxx contrary to commonly accepted construction standards”

Never report a “code violation”. That is the pervue of the AHJ, not the home inspector. You should report it as “improper”, “deficient”, etc.

I do cite"model" building codes (IRC, NEC), international standards (ASTM, AAMA, etc.), manufacturer installation instructions (especially for listed devices) and industry association best practices and standards as authoritative sources backing my opinion/position. This is often important, especially with new construction and new work because builders and contractors are fond of telling your clients to ignore what you say because that’s “just your inspector’s opinion, it’s fine the way we have done it.” Citing authoritative sources which support your opinion takes that away from them and gives your client the information that they need to press for correction of deficiencies.

Note that “model” building codes are not “statutory” building codes they are examples that are published for adoption into law, they are not law. A state, municipality or other authority may adopt them into law, either verbatim or with modifications. That becomes the statutory code which is what the AHJ uses to cite “code violations”.

Question of The Week 3-18-2018
Using Authoritative Sources

Thanks fellas; that helps a lot. Chuck-thanks for the essay on authoritative sources. I really enjoyed reading it.

When you find work that is suspicious of violating building codes or ordinances, simply recommend that the homebuyer conduct a permit search for the address to see that the AHJ has reviewed and signed off on the item(s) in question. If he has, it meets code. If he has not, it is something that the homebuyer should address with the seller. This is a prudent recommendation for any obvious add-on or major upgrade.

Building Code is relative to the Code Inspector, not the written word.

It is not a code violation unless the AHJ says it is.

I have gone to the AHJ a few times. It was to determine which Code they actually use. You can’t say it’s not code compliant if it’s not Code. Codes change, are modified, rejected, or accepted by the particular Codes Dpt. It is very complicated and no rule of thumb applies.

I only do this in new construction as you need to discuss things with ‘THE’ inspector who did it. In re-sale houses, the Code Insp may be long gone and what the code was on that day is often not clear.

I received a lot of assistance in these matters as well as total rejection. Telling your client to go talk to the AHJ is a recipe for disaster on your reputation.

Example: I inspected a house where I found several round ceiling dormers were not insulated properly. The contractor said it passed code and refused to fix it. I called the AHJ and asked which Energy Code version they used. Turned out to be an outdated version they still adopted. AHJ asked why I wanted to know. I told him about the contractor refusing repair requests. He told me if I didn’t resolve it, to call him and he would take care of it, even if he needed to pull the contractors license! An AHJ happened to ‘show up’ as I was leaving the site. Problem resolved…