“The building code is not a set of recommendations. It’s a pass/fail document. Something either meets code or it doesn’t. There’s no gray area.”
Certificate of Occupancy NH – Don’t Issue Until All is OK
QUESTION 2: Tim, I’m at my wit’s end. My builder thinks my new house is finished but there are numerous defects. He had the building inspector through and this government official issued a certificate of occupancy (CO). The builder says this is proof everything is okay. I know there are numerous items that are against the building code and I hired an engineering firm to produce a report to verify this. How would you settle this scrum? Meredith S., Windham, NH
Oh my, Meredith’s plight is oh so common! I receive identical emergency requests from homeowners all across the USA on my AsktheBuilder.com website each week. The problem is growing and it’s very troubling.
I’ve done expert witness work in situations like this for the past twenty years. The last case I was on had me crawling over the roof of the Brazilian ambassador’s house on the Caribbean island of Antigua. It was a mess!
As I see it, there are two problems in Meredith’s case. Let’s assume she’s correctly identified numerous code issues. If that’s the case, the building inspector that issued the certificate of occupancy has made a mistake. The building code is not a set of recommendations. It’s a pass/fail document. Something either meets code or it doesn’t. There’s no gray area.
The way I prevailed in all my past cases was to ignore quality issues for the most part and just stick with code violations. I’d go page-by-page through the code and any section that had a measurement requirement, I’d go measure that item in the house. I’d then take a photograph or two to prove that the item didn’t meet code.
You don’t have to hire an expert to do this. You can read the code and take measurements. If you do discover lots of things that don’t meet code, then schedule a meeting with the head building official and present your evidence. She/he should rescind the CO and only re-issue it after all the work in the house complies with the code.
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