When selling a property, people often ask their home inspector if a recommended repair is ‘grandfathered’ because it has always been that way since they bought the home. The definition of a grandfather clause from a legal perspective is when a component or system is installed in compliance with the local authorities at the time of original installation and is unchanged, then it remains acceptable under the terms of many real estate contracts of sale. For example, if your condo does not have a sprinkler system in it at this time, and a new law says it is required in all new condos, your building does not have to install the newly required sprinklers, because your building is ‘grandfathered’ in.
UP TO CODE
The term ‘grandfathered’ is a common term for an existing-non conforming use or structure. In essence this means that if you have a situation before a new law or ordinance is in place, and if you are not required to comply to the new change, then you are ‘grandfathered’ in for that new requirement. As long as a structure or building remains in a safe and sanitary condition it need not be upgraded to meet the more current standards. Therefore, your home would stay the same but any new construction, addition or remodelling would require such work to conform to the requirements of the new building code. A new home that does not meet the new code cannot be built. These upgraded building codes are not arbitrary; they are designed to ensure the structural integrity of the property and to protect the people inside it.
New zoning laws in your municipality may affect home sellers. However, if the use of the home is already established before a zoning change, and the use is lawful under the old zoning, it is a ‘lawful prior non-conforming use’ or more simply put, ‘grandfathered’. You can transfer or sell your home to a new owner without losing the right to the existing use. If you are purchasing property where the zoning is important, make sure to consult with your local zoning authorities to make sure it is properly zoned. If a homeowner built a home after the new zoning was in place without getting a building permit, the local zoning office can determine the house was built after zoning and doesn’t comply and could require drastic changes to the structure to enforce the zoning. Needless to say, this could be very expensive.
Older homes will have electrical systems that aren’t compliant with the latest electrical code rules. If the home passed the inspection of the day, they are ‘grandfathered’ and usually are considered functional and safe. However, any renovations or new work must meet the latest standards. Most insurance companies may require a service upgrade as a condition for providing adequate coverage. This can get very expensive, and usually if you are going to upgrade the service then you should add circuits where required, and in most cases an entire replacement of the electrical system is the best option.
No one can see into the future and know what will remain compliant in the future. However, if you are house searching and wondering what ‘grandfathered’ means in a home inspection, request the seller bring the work up-to-code or negotiate a lower sales price because you may have to bring the home up to compliance standards. Another option you have is to just go through with the sale and do the work yourself or hire a contractor to do it later.
As always, if you’re ever unsure about a home or if there’s an indecipherable ‘grandfather’ clause lingering around it, book a professional home inspection to get all the information you need and all the options available to you. Take the extra step in the short term or it could cost you a substantial amount of money in the long run. Building Pro Inspections offers an inspection report that is clear, concise, and that meets your specific needs. We provide a comprehensive understanding of the home in question. Contact us today to learn more.