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The Homeowner’s Guide to Avoiding Code Violations

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As a homeowner, you’re likely familiar with the concept of building codes – regulations that govern the construction, design, and maintenance of properties. Code violations aren’t only an issue during major projects. They can also arise under fairly normal circumstances.

Here’s a list of some things to watch out for:

1. Improper Electrical Wiring

Electrical systems are a common source of code violations. Using the wrong type of wiring, overloading circuits, or DIY electrical repairs can lead to violations, not to mention pose serious safety hazards.

2. Deck and Porch Issues

Decks and porches may need to adhere to specific codes, including rail height and structural integrity. A deck constructed without a permit or one that has deteriorated can easily become non-compliant.

3. Faulty Smoke Detectors

It’s a simple thing, but smoke detectors save lives. Codes require smoke detectors in specific locations and mandate that they function correctly. Check your detectors regularly and replace them as recommended by the manufacturer.

4. Incorrect Ventilation

Proper ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens is crucial to prevent mold growth and ensure air quality. Venting bathroom fans into attics or not having proper range hood venting in kitchens can lead to violations.

5. High Grass and Yard Neglect

Yes, even the state of your lawn can result in a code violation. Overgrown grass, excessive weeds, or junk piling up in your yard can attract pests and are often against local ordinances.

6. Building Without Permits

One of the most straightforward paths to a code violation is undertaking renovations or expansions without the necessary permits. Always check with your local building department before starting any significant work.

7. Illegal Units

Adding rental or accessory units without proper permits or not adhering to zoning laws can lead to significant code violations. This includes “in-law” suites or garage conversions that are not up to code.

8. Fence and Property Line Issues

Fences that are too tall, improperly built, or encroach on property lines can violate local codes. Before erecting a fence, know your property boundaries and local regulations.

9. Plumbing Missteps

Unpermitted plumbing work or using incorrect pipes and fixtures can violate codes. Additionally, failing to install proper backflow prevention can contaminate public water supplies, leading to violations.

10. Outdated or Missing Egress Windows

Egress windows are required for safety reasons, particularly in bedrooms. They must be of a certain size to allow occupants to escape in an emergency. Windows that are painted shut or too small can be a violation.

11. Unsafe Handrails or Stairways

Handrails along staircases and in certain other areas of the home are not just for convenience—they are a code requirement. They must be at certain heights and designed to be grasped easily.

Stairs with uneven steps or missing treads are not just a tripping hazard but can also lead to a code violation.

12. Non-Compliant Pool Barriers

Pools must usually be surrounded by a barrier or fence of a certain height with self-closing and self-latching gates to prevent accidental drownings. These barriers must comply with local safety standards.

13. Roofing Oversights

Using the wrong materials, improper installation, or neglecting to get a roofing permit can all result in a code violation. Your roof should also have the appropriate load-bearing capacity.

14. Lead Paint and Asbestos

For older homes, the presence of lead paint or asbestos may be a violation if not properly contained or removed. These substances are health hazards and require professional abatement.


Being informed is your first line of defense against code violations. If you’re planning any home project or are curious about the state of your home, consult with a local inspector or a licensed professional to ensure your home stays safe and compliant. Remember, adhering to building codes is not only about avoiding fines—it’s about ensuring the safety and integrity of your home for years to come.

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