Specialized Buyers Agent Answers Real Estate Questions
Q. Can you give me a quick rundown on what the sellers have to do to meet “code” when they sell their homes in this area? B. Jacobs, Strafford, PA
A. Happy to. There is a lot of misinformation on that topic in my profession. There are legal requirements and then there are contractual requirements. It helps to keep them straight. The principal law that requires sellers to do anything in order to sell their home is a type of local law called a “point of sale” or “use and occupancy” ordinance, enforced in PA by the township or borough where the house is located. In Radnor Township, for example, an outside inspection of house numbers and sidewalks must be done and sellers must sign an affidavit stating there are smoke detectors and the sump pump does not connect to the public sewer. This was recently changed to require an inspection of any illegal sewer connections, although I do not know if that means the township officials will go inside the home.
The general rule is that these ordinances are not allowed to be too invasive, weighed against need for the Township to protect the health and safety of its citizens. They usually involve only minimal cost. Overzealous enforcement can be a huge headache for sellers, who have little recourse but to complain to their elected officials. One seller I know (not from our area) had to replace all the balusters on his deck to meet current code in order to sell his house, at great expense. Another buyer was refused a certificate of occupancy because an existing drainage pipe ran under the ground from the road to a backyard stream and there was no recorded easement to PennDOT requiring it to be maintained.
In nearby Tredyfrrin Township, by contrast, there is no resale certificate required for existing home sales, although there is a “Use and Occupancy” requirement for new construction that applies certain standards for builders.
Most agreements of sale will require an inspection of the home and many inspectors will comment during the process on items that are not “up to code”. A good example might be ground fault interrupter electric outlets, required now in new construction but not when many homes were built. There is no legal requirement that a homeowner adhere to these newer codes, but many buyers will ask that the items be “fixed”. The standard agreement does not state that the buyer has this right but most inspectors and many agents are not aware how the contractual language is intended to apply in this situation.