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Is your apartment up to code?

Many people looking at apartments focus on location, size of the space and the building’s aesthetic beauty. Building code violations, on the other hand, are likely further down the list of priorities. Nevertheless, building codes ensure that people’s living spaces are free of unsafe hazards. Older buildings, in particular, may not be up to current regulations, and landlords of any property may try to cut corners by employing inexpensive fixes.

Six common building code violations

Some common and potentially dangerous building code violations are:

  1. Missing or defective GFCI: A ground fault circuit interrupter outlet has a built-in circuit breaker. A functioning GFCI is required for outlets located in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and exterior spaces.
  2. Improper handrails: The end of the handrail must turn back toward the wall. This prevents loose clothing and possessions with straps from getting caught on the end of a railing. The handrails have specific locations like stairs, height (34-38 inches) and thickness (1 ¼ to 2 5/8 inches).
  3. Improper bathroom venting: The exhaust must go outside, not into an attic crawlspace where it can cause wood to rot and compromise a roof’s supports.
  4. No deck flashing: Deck flashing covers the beams attached to the exterior of the building. This prevents rot, which can lead to a collapse.
  5. Missing, malfunctioning or misplaced smoke alarms: A functioning unit must be in every bedroom and sleeping area. They should be mounted within 12 inches of the ceiling.
  6. Missing, malfunctioning or misplaced carbon monoxide alarms: A functioning unit must be within 4 feet of the floor but not near an air vent. There should be one on each level.

Report these and other issues

These problems and others need to be addressed by the landlord. If they fail to respond to a request in writing and mailed within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant can report them. They can also pay for the upgrades themselves and pass along the expense by deducting it from their rent. If the landlord disagrees with the repairs, it is often helpful to speak with someone who understands building codes and regulations that landlords must follow.