I live in Gwinnett County, Georgia, in a townhouse that was built in
1998. I am selling the townhouse. The inspector noted that the gas
water heater, which is located in a utility closet on the second floor,
is not elevated 18 inches. The buyer want me to have this fixed.
Am I correct that when the house was built, the water heater was
installed according to code (i.e. in 1998 the requirement to be 18
inches off the ground didn't exist)?
If so, I should not be responsible for this repair. Correct?
Any advice is welcome. I am supposed to close on Wednesday of next week
Um, just using reading comprehension, I'd say its about 8 years old and
on the second floor of the townhouse.
The inspector should have known if that was a "grandfathered" condition
and noted it. Only your city building department can answer that
question now. It may be that there was a variance issued for the builder
or your assumption is correct. Either way, talk to the local department.
If its a prior condition, the buyer may give you a pass, or they may
not; its really going to be the buyer's call.
A buyer can't require a seller to bring an existing house up to the
code requirements of what it would be if it were built today. If it
met code when installed, then generally that is all that is required.
A buyer can't force you to upgrade a house to every standard that
exists today. For example, many homes are sold every day that don't
have the electric service capacity or insulation that would be required
if they were built today. Just because a home inspector says the
house doesn't have the insulation that would be required today or the
electic service capacity, doesn't mean the seller has to do upgrade it.
There are, however, some exceptions that are spelled out and applied to
all homes when they are sold. The requirement for smoke detectors,
for example. I'd call the code enforcement folks at town hall and ask
them what's required re watere heaters.
And one thing I'm curious about. What is the reasoning behind the 18"
off the floor requirement?
Actually, the buyer can ask for anything they want, and if it gets into
the purchase contract, then they can require it. That could include
updating to code, if in the buyer's mind the item in question was never
to code. Its now a question of wanting to close or not. The "code
enforcement folks" as you say can either clarify the original code
requirements or explain if a variance was allowed at time of
construction. If the 18" requirement only apples in garages, then the
seller can explain why they don't believe they have to "fix" it, but its
still the buyers call - it could be a deal killer. Not likely, but it could.
Nonetheless, it sounds like the "inspector" didn't know how to deal with
out of the ordinary situations, or he's using one of those "check off
books" that don't require a lot of "smarts." You know: "Gas Water Heater
18" above floor? __Yes __No" with no allowance for actual location.
IME, most water heaters are located in the garage, where it makes sense
for the gas burner to be 18" off the floor to keep it from igniting the
gas leaking from your parked car (as if anyone has room to actually park
a car in the garage), or your gas grill cylinder. The 18" requirement in
garages has been around for a lot longer than 8 years when that home was
Did the OP give any indication that the contract had anything requiring
the house to be fully updated to current code, even if nothing in the
municipal code requires it? Did you ever see such a thing in a home
purchase contract? The seller would have to be a total moron to sign
such a thing. Homes are sold ever day that don't have insulation that
would be required today, or the electric service capacity required
Its now a question of wanting to close or not. The "code
A variance for a water heater that could just have a 18" stand placed
If the 18" requirement only apples in garages, then the
> Nonetheless, it sounds like the "inspector" didn't know how to deal
Out of the ordinary situations? It's not at all unusual for a water
heater to be in part of the living space.
The OP stated that the inspector griped about the water heater; if the
purchase contract was pending the correction of the results of the
inspection, then yes itcould be considered in the contract. You
projected bringing everything up to code which is not what I'm trying to
talk about. Just what the apparently novice inspector has wrought. But
the fact is, if the buyer puts it in the contract and the seller accepts
it, then yes the whole house could have to be brought up to code. Smart
buyer, foolish seller syndrome.
Yes, this is apparently a townhome, lots of homes by one builder at a
time, save on production costs, get a variance; happens all the time.
I projected bringing everything up to code? This is what you posted:
And there you go posting the same thing again, as if once isn't enough
and claiming you never said it. Have you ever seen a contract where
the seller was required to rebuild the house to the code requirements
of today, as opposed to when it was built?
> A variance for a water heater that could just have a 18" stand
BS First, most builiding inspectors aren't gonna waive code, just
cause someone doesn't like it. Second, it wouldn't be worth the time
and effort to avoid putting the freaking water heater on a simple
Yep I wrote that, which is what I wrote in response to your mentioning
Okay, you win. I haven't seen the contract, I don't have a
clue about what the specific performance of the purchase contract is,
what the specific code requirements are for the area, or what (or if)
the contingency clause is regarding the inspector's findings, nor do I
even know if she had a lawyer look at her contract before signing
(evidently not since she's asking here); apparently if the OP wants to
close this Wednesday, she'll have to fix it or waive it or appeal that
it doesn't have to be fixed. That's the options on the specific case as
I see it. Her only point of authority for appealing is the local
building inspection agency.
The generic point is, whatever the buyer puts in the contract is part of
the performance of the contract if the seller accepts it. If the buyer
wants something (not necessarily the whole house) brought up to code
before closing, and the the seller accepts the contract, then the seller
has to "perform" or waive it (usually with monetary consideration).
While I've yet to see a "whole house to current code" clause, I have
seen specific items requested to be brought up to code as part of the
sale. Sometimes the seller accepts, sometimes they turn down the offer.
Jeez, I thought I was agreeing with you that the buyer would have to be
an idiot to accept such a contract. What part of the "if" did you miss?
The buyer *can* ask for "anything," *if* the seller accepts the
contract, its up to the seller to "perform." I once bought a house and
had the seller pay all *my* closing costs and erect a new fence by
putting it in the contract which he accepted. So I know things like that
can be done. Yeah, he didn't like me much on closing day.
Did I say the building inspector waived code? Its not that hard to get a
variance which the building inspector then signs off on. The variance
just "legalizes" the issue. The local building authority would have a
record of such a variance if it existed. Its something to check.
I've seen stranger things scrimped to save a few bucks in tract housing.
I don't have any knowledge of construction, but I can tell you about my
experience as a consumer when I bought my house. I live in Texas, and codes
in my town also require gas hot water heaters to be elevated a minimum of 18
inches. In my case, the hot water heater is in a storage room connected to
the garage. I hired a house inspecter before buying the house, and this was
one of the defects he noted. I made the correction, not the seller. On the
other hand, I would not let that interfere with buying a home because the
cost was *minimal.* The HWH is placed on concrete blocks set upright. They
are exactly 18 inches.
Others will correct me if I am wrong.
The 18" off the floor requirement is for gas water heaters located in
garages. I have never heard of it applying to water heaters inside the
IMO the inspector was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
If this is the initial heater and code was met when built you should not be
required to update it at this time either way.
Well if the buyer makes an offer contingent on the change and you want
to accept the offer, then you make the change. If you don't want to make the
change no sale.
As to any requirement that it be changed before any sale, I would
suggest a local attorney.
i would be more concerned its in a drain pan so when it leaks it doesnt
flood your home.
i do believe 18 inches is a GAS water heater issue in garages, this
home inspector needs to go back to school.
You might ask this at that national; home inspectors site, they are
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