I had a ridiculously frustrating conversation with a building official from a local city the other day (I won’t say which – I’m licensed in six cities). I called him to argue about a permit that he approved, but I ended up backing down after I talked to him. Here’s the story.
While performing a Truth in Sale of Housing Evaluation at a property, I noted that the exhaust for the high-efficiency furnace was too close to the mechanical air intake. The furnace had just been installed, and the owner hadn’t even had the city out yet to inspect the furnace. I showed the owner the installation manual for the furnace, which demonstrated exactly why it was improperly installed.
The owner called the installation company and told them about the improper installation, but the installers suggested he wait until the city inspector came out to look at the furnace. The installers obviously knew something I didn’t. The city inspector came out, discussed the installation with the seller, and said the installation was fine.
The owner was now obviously stuck in the middle – I’m telling him one thing, and the building official is telling him another thing. We’re always supposed to be on the same page! To get us on the same page, well, really to get him on my page, I called the building official to convince him that I was right. Unfortunately, he completely agreed with me. I had the whole conversation planned out… and it didn’t matter! He told me about having the exact same conversation with his superiors a long time ago, but was told to back down on the issue. There are so many houses that have this same improper installation, he was told to just let it go.
As a Truth in Housing Evaluator, I’m acting as a sub-contractor for the city. I’m supposed to be calling out the defects that they want called out, not calling out what is right or wrong… so I let it go. Instead of rating this defect as a “B” – Below Minimum Requirements, I changed my rating to a “C” – Comment. When the home is sold, maybe the buyers will hire an inspector that doesn’t like the installation either and tells them to change it.
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Saint Paul Home Inspector