OK, Shakespeare would be a bit upset by the title as homebuyers may be upset to learn that an Arizona home inspection is not a code compliance evaluation (checking to see if the home is “to code”). To some that may sound a bit crazy. Of course home inspectors should be looking for code violations, many would argue. Well, as you may know, in reality a home inspection does not include code compliance verification.
There are many reasons that home inspectors do not provide a code inspection. Some are:
- It would be very difficult to determine which codes to use for a resale home since changes to building requirements are not retroactive so older homes do not have to be upgraded to meet new standards.
- Building departments often make field variance decisions to allow for reasonable designs and installations that do not quite meet the letter of the law.
- Engineered designs may be allowed that conflict with the code if approved by a registered professional engineer. Similarly, installations may be allowed if they comply with manufacturers recommendations.
- The building codes are a massive accumulation of documents that have undergone numerous changes over the years. No human knows the codes in their entirety. The research required to compare a home to the building codes is cost prohibitive.
A property inspection includes an evaluation of numerous safety issues that are mirrored in the building codes. For example, the inspector will look for electrical outlets having GFCI protection, opening sizes in railings and cross-connections in the plumbing system. The inspection report may note items that would also come up during a code evaluation, however, they often refer to the problem as not meeting building standards. Rarely, if ever, will a home inspector use the word “code” in a home inspection report. If they did, it could confuse the client into thinking they received a code compliance evaluation.
Think of it this way, if you were buying a 1969 Ford Mustang Fastback your auto inspector would not be telling you that the car does not have airbags, an in-dash GPS system or heated seats. They build Mustang’s differently now just as they build homes differently today. We all understand this.
The home inspection profession has standards of practice that guide the process of a home inspection. A home inspection, however, simply does not live up to the often mistaken assumption that it includes a code compliance evaluation. Now you know.