Oftentimes the Sacramento County Building Permits and Inspections Division receives calls from potential homebuyers indicating their home inspector has noted multiple code violations, and they want to know why the County signed off on a home with violations, and what the County is going to do about it.
It’s important to understand the differences between what building inspectors and home inspectors do. A building inspector is employed by a city or a county, and their job is to inspect residential or commercial new construction, additions, repairs, or alterations that are under an active permit. The Building Inspector enforces the California Building, Electrical, Plumbing, Mechanical, Green, and Energy Codes. Building inspectors are also required by the state to be certified, typically by the International Code Council.
A building inspector will inspect the project during various stages of construction and sign a job card to document the results of each inspection. When the project is complete, the inspector will sign off the final job card; it’s important to note that at that moment in time, the specific work performed complied with State Building Code requirements.
A home inspector, usually hired by a home buyer prior to the purchase of a home to check for damage, non-working equipment, and needed repairs, is not associated with any government agency. The home inspector provides a detailed report and recommendations to the buyer that may be used to negotiate a sale price or even influence moving forward with the sale.
Are the items listed in the home inspector’s report actual building code violations? The answer is, not always. Home inspectors generally report on maintenance issues, such as loose roof tiles, leaking piping, unsafe electrical, non-working appliances or ventilation fans, and poor drainage around the home. These are maintenance issues and not Building Code issues.
The California Building Code covers construction rather than maintenance. Though there is a property maintenance code published by the International Code Conference, few home inspectors refer to it.
There may be a few items in a home inspector’s report that are in fact building code violations, such as:
Low ceiling height
Doors are too small
Inadequate light or ventilation in a room
Incorrect roof framing
Floor bounces, undersize framing members
Incorrect carport framing
If these items appear on your home inspector report, it is time to contact the Sacramento County Building Division to determine if additions or projects were performed without permits. It’s important that these items be researched before the home is sold.