Category Archives: Property Inspection

Baltimore City Rental Licensing

Independent Home Inspection

Baltimore City Rental Inspections

The long awaited Baltimore City Rental Inspection form has arrived. Along with it have been constant phone calls and endless emails as landlords and inspectors alike try to determine the easiest path through this inspection mess.

It’s obvious to me, and I’m sure my colleagues will agree, that no Home Inspectors were consulted when the Baltimore City Rental Inspection criteria was finalized.

I’m not going to waste any words about what’s right with the inspection sheet. It’s been long overdue, but the three pages of inspection items show that the City took little notice of its County neighbor whose successful inspection program has been running for the last 10 years with a single page.

One of the first oversights made by the city is simply that the properties involved are mostly occupied. Furnished homes provide obstacles to any Home Inspection as many areas are obscured by furnishings. Home Inspectors do not move furniture and tenants will have a legitimate concern that their property may be damaged during the inspection should that be necessary.

Some of the inspection items are vague and do not provide a standard. Home Inspectors are not ‘Code’ inspectors nor are they supposed to be. The City needs to specify the requirements for a ‘pass’ when needed.

All told the inspection sheet is a big ‘FAIL’ by itself.  A landlord with no inspection background should be able to decipher what’s needed and make his/her property ready for inspection.  Otherwise a great many landlords will be paying for TWO inspections.

The ultimate cost of inspections will be borne by the renter. While the intent may be to make Baltimore housing healthier and safer, the poor, who can barely make ends meet now, may just find themselves poorer as a result of these inspections.

Advertisements

Maryland Smoke Alarm Law

A recent Home Inspection revealed what seems to be continuing confusion about Maryland’s new smoke alarm law. The law, passed in 2013, only took effect in January of this year. It strengthens the previous law and follows NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 72 guidelines.

Since 1975 new home construction code required installation of hardwired smoke alarms and in 1990 this was amended to require battery back-up.

The current law requires ten year batteries for installations that only require batteries (pre-1975) but require hard wired alarms be replaced with the same for hardwired installations.

The photo above shows a hard wired location and the battery only alarm that was installed as a replacement.  The new law requires replacement for ten year old alarms and the date indicates this alarm as current.  Lack of an electrical connector and the wording “SINGLE STATION” indicates that this alarm is battery operated only and not intended for interconnection which makes it unsuitable for this location.

In short you can never replace a hard-wired interconnected smoke alarm in Maryland with a battery only device.

Realtors should be aware of this and caution their clients.  It is an item that is checked on every Independent Home Inspection.

New Rental Requirements for Baltimore County

  Baltimore County has new regulations regarding safety equipment for your rental property. Beginning in February of this year changes have been made to the smoke alarm requirements and in April changes will take effect for the Carbon Monoxide alarms.

Hardwired interconnected smoke alarms are now required on every level of your dwelling excluding unoccupied spaces (attic, crawl, garage). This will still include basements if your home has one. Smoke alarms must all be from the same manufacturer to ensure proper operation and alarms 10 years or older must be replaced.

Beginning in April of this year Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms are now required on each level of your home if you have fuel burning devices or an attached garage. They must be audible from the sleeping areas and must have a 10 year battery.

While not required of the CO alarms, Interconnected alarms still provide the most safety by allowing more time to exit the home should that be necessary. This is easily demonstrated by CO occurring in the basement and setting off all alarms on each floor before the gasses have left the basement. Smoke and CO gasses that reach the upper floor sleeping areas before the alarm sounds may not provide adequate time to exit the premises before a fatality occurs.

Independent Home Inspection will check your alarms during inspection to make sure they comply with the new rules. As before re-inspections will be performed for no charge after the proper repairs have been made.

Image

National Radon Action Month – January

January is National Action Month for Radon Awareness.  Do you know the Radon levels in your home?  Do you know the effects of long term exposure to you and your children.

Independent Home Inspection is offering a 20% reduction in our fee for Radon tests with or without a home inspection.  This includes testing those homes that already have a Radon mitigation system.  Testing homes with mitigation systems installed insures their continued effectiveness at reducing Radon to safe levels.

You’re wise to check your new home for Radon before you buy. The EPA says all homes can have Radon. This includes new homes as well as older homes. No mitigation systems installed in your neighborhood may simply mean those homes haven’t been tested.

So, what results do you need to make a decision about Radon levels. The answer is simply the average concentration over the testing period. This includes short term tests, as in a Real Estate transaction, or long term tests that might be done to monitor the effectiveness of an installed mitigation system. The EPA has set 4.0 piCul as the action level for a single family home. At or above that level requires a mitigation system to reduce harmful Radon levels.

Independent Home Inspection uses an electret based Radon monitoring system to measure your homes Radon level. Electrets have an initial electrical charge that decays at a known rate in the presence of Radon. I use annually calibrated equipment to measure the electret charge before and after exposure and a computer generates the result on the basis of the measured differences.

Electret systems advantages are many. They require no power source during testing. They continuously respond to Radon exposure rather than sampling (other methods sample hourly or ½ hourly). Results do not require a lab and accurately indicate the Radon average over the testing period. In fact this method of Radon testing has been determined to be the most accurate system available today.

Independent Home Inspection is available to test your homes Radon either with a home inspection or alone. Call or text today for availability and cost: 410-504-3751

www.IndependentHomeInspectionMD.com

Image

Garage Door Safety

installation
You may not have given your garage door much thought lately. You press a button and it opens, another and it closes. Have you ever lost power to your door and had to open it by hand? Do you know how to do that?

Your garage door could be quite heavy. Older overhead doors were made entirely of wood. Newer doors are usually aluminum or fiberglass.

There will be a way to disconnect your overhead door from the opening apparatus so you can open it manually. This is usually a short cord and handle hanging from the track about half way to the door. pulling it disengages the door chain or cable and the door is then free to be raised.

Overhead door remote operation should be checked occasionally to ensure safe operation. The ‘electric eye’ operation to prevent door closure is fairly obvious. Recommended height for this beam is 4-6 inches off the floor. Too low and it may shine under your car and allow operation when you are only partially in the garage.

Less obvious is the automatic reversing feature required of overhead doors. This will reverse the door when it strikes an object while descending. This will not prevent damage or injury but will prevent entrapment of the object or person.

The Garage Door Manufacturers Association recommends testing the reverse function with a 2×4 laid across the door opening. Adjustment is usually a simple operation, consult the manufacturers manual for detailed specific information.
Children should be cautioned or forbidden as necessary to prevent dangerous overhead door operation.

Are You Winterized?

My Grandfather and then my father seemed like they wore sweaters pretty much all year as they got older.  You could say they were ‘winterized,’ but that’s not what I’m asking.

As a youngster growing up in a non-air conditioned house, winterized meant the screens were taken off the windows and the storm windows were installed.  The furnace was serviced and the boiler lit.  If you’re a home owner already the term “winterized’ may mean something similar to you.

My concern as a home inspector though deals with those homes that have had their electricity and water turned off to save money during an extended vacancy.  Usually bank owned properties.

On more than one occasion I have scheduled an inspection for a client only to find out that the home has been ‘winterized.’  Hopefully I can find this out before the scheduled time has arrived and the inspection can be postponed until such time as the utilities have been restored.

A Home Inspector simply cannot perform a thorough inspection without running water or electricity.  Toilets can’t be flushed, faucets cannot be operated to check for proper water flow, and with nothing to drain… well you can’t very well check for proper drainage or leaks.

No electricity, no heat, hence the reason the water was turned off to start with; to prevent the pipes from freezing. So now the Home Inspector can’t check outlets, switches, light fixtures, appliances, garage door openers…the list goes on.  Wouldn’t you like to know if your heat or air conditioning actually operates?  We forget how much we depend on the daily convenience of all these things.

Despite all the precautions taken to prevent pipe freezing when the electricity is turned off (typically an anti-freeze is added to the water remaining in the pipes), a house I was contracted to inspect recently suffered broken pipes when the water was restored.  The necessary repairs created over a month of delay before a home inspection could be performed.

Now you know the reason a Home Inspector will not turn on the utilities in a ‘winterized’ home.  It is the seller’s responsibility to insure utilities are turned on at the time of inspection and make any repairs should damage occur.

Inspecting a house without these items, well. . .it’s not really inspecting a house!

Bob