Rules for smoke alarms now 20 years old
Q: Are smoke alarms required to be hardwired and networked together throughout a home? If so, when did these standards take effect?
A: Smoke alarms in dwellings must be hard-wired to the electrical system. This requirement was introduced in the 1979 Building Code. In 1991, the code was amended to include battery backup to ensure alarms remain operable in the event of a power failure during a fire.
Networking, which is the interconnection of all alarms within a home, was introduced as a requirement in the 2000 building code. The purpose of this new standard was to ensure smoke at one end of a home would activate all alarms, including those at the opposite end of the dwelling. However, not all municipalities adopt code changes immediately or simultaneously. Each code enforcement agency accepts new versions of the building code at their own pace. To determine when these codes became law in your area, consult your local building department.
Q: How important is it for homebuyers to attend their home inspection? We're buying a home in another state, so attending the inspection is not convenient for us, and our agent says it's not important that we be there. Are there any real advantages in being there at the inspection?
A: Attending your home inspection is the way to attain a fuller understanding of the condition of the home you are buying. It is the only opportunity you will have to take your time examining the property in detail, rather than simply walking through for 15 to 30 minutes.
The benefits of a home inspection are magnified when the home inspector can verbally review the findings, show you the problems that were found, explain those problems, and answer all of your questions. Unfortunately, distances can prevent buyers from being present, but when attendance is possible, don't let anyone, not even your agent, convince you to forego this informative process.
Q: In a recent column, you discussed the question of legal and financial liability for failure to disclose an unpermitted building addition that was discovered by the buyer after closing escrow. You evaluated the positions of the seller and the home inspector, but you never mentioned the title insurance company. Wouldn't they be responsible for related losses, and shouldn't a title search reveal the lack of a building permit?
A: Title reports do not involve disclosures of property defects or compliance with permit requirements.
Title insurance companies are concerned exclusively with issues that could adversely affect clear, uncontested ownership and unrestricted use of a property. Pertinent issues in this regard include deeds of trust to secure loans, liens of various kinds, use easements, use restriction, rights of way, and other circumstances that could denigrate the value and use of a property.
There is no way a title search would reveal an unpermitted addition because there would most likely be no paper trail to enable discovery.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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