What I'm Seeing Now

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I'm Sorry, Sir, But Clearance Is Required

I inspected a property with a "newly renovated basement apartment."

It was a very nice-looking place.  Usually though, with remodels, you see signs that things were not thought out quite clearly.

Take the example here.  This is the furnace closet.  It was tucked away in the only place they allowed for it.  They didn't think it through in two ways.

First, because of the depth of the closet, the heat pump is situated the only way they could.  Which would be fine, except that

1.  Only about half of the filter can be removed from its slot and

2.  There is only 13" of work space in front of the unit.

Most manufacturers require at least as much space in front of any furnace as the furnace is deep in order to get to it for repairs and/or easy removal upon replacement.  The rule of thumb is 30" or more.

Second, they selected an 80 gallon water heater.  This would be fine, except that it is very fat.  This soaks up much space in the closet that it encroaches on the furnace and sticks out so far they cannot install doors!!

This closet is too small for these two appliances!

And the beat goes on, and on, and on...

Oh, there was no water heater in the house above.  Apparently this unit was sized to serve both the apartment and the landlord's house above!  So the renter, maybe without realizing it, would be paying the hot water bill for the landlord above!

There are two electric meters servicing this house.  So the lower-level apartment will clearly have its own electric bill.  I don't know if this was intentional or an oversight, but it's cute!  It's nice when someone else pays a part of your bill!

Do you see the cable hanging down?  There is one wire nut over the black (hot) wire.  AND IT IS HOT!  I licked it to make sure...  Okay, I have a little tester, which saves my tongue from time to time.

My real concern:  THEY HAD A PERMIT AND ALL THESE THINGS WERE APPROVED BY THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES!

My recommendation:  When you buy or sell a unit with a "newly renovated basement apartment," have it checked out!  Home inspectors can usually spot the glaring things, and not so glaring things, overlooked or not completely thought out!

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 17 commentsJay Markanich • April 20 2010 05:49AM

Comments

They're not so easy to maintain when access is a problem, Jay!

Posted by William True, Sarasota Real Estate (True Sarasota Real Estate) over 8 years ago

This is a useful post. In many towns the township comes to inspect such apartments and it should be according to code.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 8 years ago

I suspect property owner got a 10% off coupon from LOWE'S (#48) and took what is available on the day they went shopping. 80gal HWH is HUGE so I suspect you are correct * the landlord wants a free ride for their hot water!~!  This REALLY makes tenants mad when they find out!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 8 years ago

William - maintenance is the key to most everything, us included!

Gita - well, neither of those problems are to "code."  But the code is not that impressive - it is a minimum standard and can always be exceeded.  I have watched local inspectors on their final walk throughs and it is pretty quick.

Wallace - in all fairness, maybe they were going to split that with the renters, but who knows!  How do you split the use of one person in the basement and four people upstairs?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I had a conversation with a tire kicker yesterday on the difference between a municipal code inspection and a good home inspection. Her and her husband are buying a "new" 2008 property. The builder is living in the home and according to this woman the home hasn't gotten a final CO. I explained to her much of what you hit on above. I will guarantee she will not call me back however. My feeling was their priority was cost of the inspection not quality.

I wrote a little while back on finding a furnace filter the could not be removed because the flue pie was blocking the filter. Must be the same company expanding their operations to VA.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay - That wouldn't have passed any of the inspectors in my area.  The owner might have been better off to have used a "tankless" water heater.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 8 years ago

Hey Jay, just use some of those ne hinged filters. 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 8 years ago

Hey Jay, just use some of those ne hinged filters. 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 8 years ago

Hey Jay, just use some of those ne hinged filters. 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 8 years ago

Jim - they want a platinum inspection but feel entitled to aluminum pricing.  I remember that post and I think I commented that it was Uncle Bob work.  He gets around.  Apparently he has returned here from CT...

John - the final inspections around here are quickie doodles.  Smoke detector, GFI, got something in my eye.  Gotta go!  And off they are to another "inspection."  As to the tankless heaters - those are so expensive to install around here that I advise my clients not to get them.  They will NEVER break even.  I put my figures into the Rinai website page to figure out "how much you will save."  Using their program and my numbers I would not break even for 22 years.  If their numbers are like the EPA gas mileage numbers, it is probably more like 28 years!  Well, how long do they last?  17-20, or so they think...  I am not sure I see the value.

Jack - the old accordion filters!  Fold them as many times as you need.  Or, buy the "one size fits all" and break off the sections that stick out too far!  Gotta work great!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay but many of those filters have the nice pleats so you can fold them to get them in place :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Guess I should have read all your comments first----dang :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

No problem Charlie!  That probably would have worked!

And pleated stuff works well with that cute shoe you found in the wall.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Maybe they are just happy with dirty air.  Or I sould say half clean air and half dirty air.

Posted by doug diller (Goal Line Inspections) over 8 years ago

Doug - that filter was completely installed.  I pulled it out for the photo to demonstrate that it cannot be removed. 

Isn't that staging?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Hmmm. The visual of you sticking out your tongue to test that wire is, well, I'll just leave it there. LOL

Posted by Russel Ray, San Diego Business & Marketing Consultant & Photographer (Russel Ray) over 8 years ago

Gotta leave people with the image of sparks and damage Russel...   (;>)

Actually my little beeper tester works great.  Even has a little flashing light!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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