Homeowners’ Rights Against Building Inspectors [Simplified]

Your house is your property, and the total ownership belongs to you. Your ownership must be in line with stipulated codes and rules, set and approved by the state or other authoritative bodies.

These laws and codes are primarily intended for house owners’ benefits; breaking them comes with prices to pay.

Regardless of your conformity to building codes, you own your house and have a high degree of authority. Your rights include the ability to stop illegitimate or unwarranted searches.

homeowners rights against building inspectors

Building inspectors cannot just turn up and gain access to your home. Forced entry is mostly a serious crime. To defend yourself, you need to know your rights.

Don’t Evade the Necessary Permits.

When building your house, there are certain permits you need to get. These permits may require prior inspections before your home is ready for habitation in order to ensure you keep to community codes.

A lot of these permits will cost you a fortune. It is better you pay and get them out of the way. The required permits have to do with plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and general duties, all depending on the scope of your construction.

For instance, the Department of Public Works in Los Angeles, advised that the building process of the home should be started by contacting the field office of the Building and Safety Division District.

That way, a plan check engineer will guide prospective homeowners on the needed approvals. The engineer will also direct them to the required departments and agencies. Getting the required approvals is the first significant step to defend yourself from building inspectors.

Inspectors Need Search Warrants to Do Their Job

Inspectors can come for different reasons, but they need to be backed by some authoritative approvals. You should not allow an inspector without a warrant to have access to your home. Mostly, home inspectors are expected to have an administrative warrant or a general warrant. The inspecting officer must present probable cause or causes before getting his warrant. These prospective reasons should primarily be the basis of the search.

According to Camara v. Municipal Court of City and County of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523, 538 (1967). The requesting official has to show “probable cause” to secure any sort of search warrant. This implies that the requesting official may have a fair justification to conclude that a crime has been perpetrated (for general warrants) or that an investigation may be done (for administrative warrants). The requirement for determining a probable cause for an administrative warrant is distinct from that needed for a general warrant, which is less strict. The probable cause should be identified to seek an administrative warrant by demonstrating that “fair statutory or administrative requirements for performing an area inspection are met with regard to a specific dwelling.

The Owner’s Consent is a Must Before an Inspection

Homeowners have the ultimate power, especially when they are in a legally supported position. Regardless of obtaining a warrant, the inspection officer needs to get the homeowner’s consent before entering the building. Without seeking the owner’s consent, entering the house is a form of a home invasion.

Home invasion is a punishable crime. If an inspector presents a search warrant and the homeowner denies him the necessary consent, such an inspector doesn’t have the right to use force to inspect. Homeowners can turn up inspectors based on different reasons. The inspector may not have a warrant, or the inspector has an unauthorized warrant. These two reasons are the major premise of most consent refusal that are allowed.

Also, the reason for the search might be a mix-up. If that’s the case, a reasonable conversation between both parties should be progressive. If such a conversation is not progressive, the situation must be reported to the appropriate office, instead of inspectors having the upper hand. Refusal of consent may also be due to personal reasons or inclined privacy purposes. These motives must be defendable by the homeowners, especially if health and safety are involved, or it has to do with family crises and cultural heritages.

Suppose a homeowner refuses to give consent to an adequately authorized inspection officer. In that case, the inspecting officer can report such owner to his superior officer and even get the law enforcement officers involved.

In such a case, the homeowner must have a justifiable reason for their personal defiance. If not, the act of avoiding consent is punishable. In a similar vein, the homeowners also have the right to report house inspectors to the police or law enforcement agencies if the owner believes that his rights are being violated.

Combination of Factors

The case of Commonwealth Court in Commonwealth v. Tobin, 828 A.2d 415 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2003) explains a lot. The residential landlord was criminally convicted for not having a rental permit. Such an act is punishable under the law. The conviction was later canceled out by the fact that the inspection officer didn’t have any authorized warrant, and also, the landlord didn’t give prior consent before the inspection. According to the decision of the court, the inspecting officer was supposed to obtain an administrative warrant when the house owner refused to give consent.

Warrant requirements may be for various reasons, but it is a must, same with initial owner consent. Any combination of such violations is addressable under the Housing laws of the United States of America.

The laws may differ in different states, but essentially, the homeowners’ rights are never neglected. Also, inspectors should know better, owing to the fact that they are mostly expected to be trained professionals in the first place.

CONCLUSION

A home inspection is never really about a pass or fail. As a homeowner, you have a lot of authority and protection, fundamentally as a human, and provided by the law.

To be protected by your rights and by the law, you must also conform to some standard requirements. The most important thing to ensure is that you have all your documents and permits intact.

One crucial thing to know is home inspectors are not your enemies. They should be seen as good guys that can be discussed with. Proper communication between owners and inspectors will solve the majority of home inspection issues.

Before building your house, make sure you reach out to the building and safety agencies of your state. These agencies will be your ultimate guide, and they will be there to protect you from any inspection related problems

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