To Code or Not To Code...?

Real Estate Agent

That is the buyers question.

I recently had a buyer cancel a contract on a 2-family home in Cheektowaga due to the inspector's findings. It wasn't that the hot water tanks were old, pipes were corroded or that the roof would need to be replaced within a few years. It was the windows and not the usual complaint of " oh, it has its original windows..."

This multi-family home is a 2/3 bedroom property;  2 beds in the upper unit, 3 in the lower. There is a bedroom in each unit with what I'll call a "privacy window". A few feet in length, couple feet in height and the base of it is at least 5 feet front the floor. All very rough measurements...  Our inspector told us that these windows are not to current building codes and should not be used as bedrooms until proper egress is obtained. See direct verbiage below.

"One or more bedroom windows do not meet egress regulations under today's building standards. This means that there is not a secondary means of escape in case of an emergency such as a fire. When the home was built the window sizes likely were within the building standards when the home was constructed. This room should not be used as a bedroom unless proper egress is provided. This applies to both units."

This effectively makes it a 1/2 bedroom property. The reduction in bedrooms and fear of someone not being able to escape these rooms in case of an emergency caused my buyer to cancel his contract.  I completely understand.

I notified the list agent of this information provided by the inspector out of concern. In a panic, the sellers and their agent set out on their due diligence to check codes. They were concerned as well; they have tenants in their!  After several phone calls and emails,  the Town of Cheektowaga confirmed that the homes windows are to code (whether grandfathered in or not I don't know) and the new replacement windows come completely out in case if emergency. Sigh of relief for home owners.  However, my contract is still canceled; buyer can't shake the initial information. On to the next!

What are your thoughts? Do inspectors typically advise on building codes? Should older homes find out if they are to code?  If they should, contact the town?  Or would a home inspection suffice? I'd love for inspectors and agents alike to share.

Best wishes!


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Gerard Gilbers
Higher Authority Markeing - Asheboro, NC
Your Marketing Master

His reference to the building codes should have been verified by contacting the town. Since the reason for canceling the contract is not true there could be some recourse, if the seller wished to pursue it. 

Sep 21, 2013 11:45 AM #1
Juan Jimenez
A House on a Rock Home Inspections LLC - Richmond, VA
The Richmond Home Inspector
Sarah as a home inspector myself, I would have never made that comment. A home inspector has no authority to say what is a bedroom and what is not. He has no authority to mention that there is a code violation in the home. The home inspector could have mentioned that the windows (if in fact it were true) would not meet modern safety requirements, and that the buyers may wish to have them upgraded to meet modern standards. He crossed the line when he said they could not be used as bedrooms.
Sep 21, 2013 12:03 PM #2
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

I bet there's a lot of homes with that type of window -- it was probably very common in that area and that year of home / style of home.  Inspector needs to be more knowlegable then, if he's going to be spouting off like that! 

Sep 21, 2013 12:09 PM #3
Bill Reddington
Re/max By The Sea - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

Can't make a seller update home to current codes if the property was built to code at the time it was built. Any upgrades that require a permit would require have to be to todays codes would be my thoughts..

Sep 21, 2013 02:02 PM #4
Sarah Lynn Jaskowski
Williamsville, NY
House. Home. Today.

Thanks all for the feedback.  He didn't say they couldn't be bedrooms just that they shouldn't. I don't fault the inspector, I really don't.  I just had never heard of codes being addressed on inspections.  Even if we consulted the town before cancelling the contract and found out its to code, would you be able to shake that scare?  Thanks all!

Sep 22, 2013 01:40 AM #5
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Many deals are indeed killed by home inspection reports. All of us need to be very careful with the selection of home inspectors and should seek verification if items in the report are questioned. This is a great topic for a series of blogs.

Oct 01, 2013 01:06 AM #6
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Mmmn. I do know home inspectors can make or break deals by instilling doubt/and or fear into a buyer's mind. I really challenge conclusions such as this one, and always suggest that we further investigate the issue to see what might need to be done.  To blatantly suggest they are not legal bedrooms is overstepping his responsibility.

Oct 01, 2013 02:14 AM #7
Sarah Lynn Jaskowski
Williamsville, NY
House. Home. Today.

It's amazing how different buyers can be too.  This one heard one thing and nothing could change his mind.  I've had others that will test and retest things to get the result they want from and inspection (well testing in this case).  Thanks for the feedback as always!

Oct 01, 2013 03:59 AM #8
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Sarah Lynn Jaskowski

House. Home. Today.
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