Code violations can vary on the spectrum from quick fix to absolute deal breaker — A broken smoke alarm is easy and cheap to fix, but a swimming pool without a permit could cost tens of thousands of dollars to bring up to code. In this article, we’ll give you everything that you need to know about selling a house with code violations.
What Is A Code Violation?
When it comes to housing, the county and the city have a lot of influence. If either of these entities creates a law and your home doesn’t fit the bill, you have a code violation. To make matters worse, these laws change constantly, which means that you can be grandfathered in to a violation and not even know it. It’s quite common for home sellers to discover during the selling inspection, that they now have violations that didn’t exist when they purchased the home.
Codes Can Range From Reasonable To Ridiculous
Reasonable codes include things like proper retrofitting, grading, drainage, architecture, and zoning. All of these codes are created for the safety of everyone living in the community and everyone in the community would probably want these codes to be heavily enforced. No one would want their neighbor’s poorly built house to topple over onto their own, or have a nuclear power plant open on their quiet cul-de-sac. Coding and zoning prohibits this from happening. However, not all codes are so reasonable. Some municipalities will site you for having trash cans curbed for an extended period of time or having an unkempt lawn — These are a little harder to swallow.
How Do You Know If Your Home Has A Coding Violation?
Unfortunately, the government won’t tell you that you have a coding violation, unless there is a safety issue present. This means that you probably won’t even know about the violation until you attempt to sell the home. And in this case, it will be the home buyer’s inspector that will inform you of the issue. Furthermore, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of codes to keep up with, so tracking them can be tough. Local contractors are pretty well versed in building code though, and a good one can usually give you their professional opinion. However, there are a few that are very common.
Common Code Violations
Most violations occur when a homeowner adds more living space to the home without obtaining permits prior. Another common violation occurs when water heaters or electrical points are installed without proper permission. I’ve also seen roofing that failed flame retardancy testing and smoke detectors that weren’t up to code.
Selling A House With Code Violations
If the code violation is easy to fix, you can do so before the home even goes to inspection. For instance, if you know that you don’t have CO2 detectors installed on every floor, install them before you put your home on the market.
If the code violation is more complicated, this is when things get sticky. Every buyer wants to be provided with a clear and marketable title. This means that when you buy a home, you want to be assured that the home is free of encumbrances and that another potential buyer would also want to buy the home if you choose to sell it in the future. If you have code violations, the title is not clear and very few people would want to buy the house, so you must eradicate the violations prior to selling. And if you can’t eradicate the violation, you can’t sell the house.
How To Fix A Code Violation
If you think that your house may be in violation, contact the municipality immediately. Usually, they are willing to work with homeowners to resolve the issue. Also, if you have liens, sanctions, or fines, you may be able to negotiate them down to a reasonable amount.
Once you have a clear picture of the exact violations, you can hire a contractor to obtain the proper permitting and bring the issue up to code. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the permits, labor, and fines — But once this is all done, you can put the home on the market with ease.
What If You Can’t Afford To Fix The Violation?
There are some investment companies that are willing to buy your property in cash, which means that they aren’t subject to inspection. The benefit of selling to an investor is that you can dump the code infested property quickly. But the downside, is that it will usually be at a deeply discounted price, so the investors can bring the property up to code and pay off any remaining violations.