That was the question my clients asked me when I pointed out the dangers to small children inherent at their home inspection. This patio sold the house! It is beautiful. Now don't get me wrong! I grew up in the 50's and 60's. We ate asbestos and lead, rolled in radon pits and swam in creeks and golf course lakes while drinking the water. And I never had a life jacket when I boated or went swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, truthfully, when I was 3 and 4 years old! I have pictures to prove that!
But today, this would be considered a bit dangerous. I don't know when it was built and frankly don't know what the code would have said years ago. But really, does it matter?
If there was a code in place, it likely would have required a guardrail on any wall higher than 30". The wall on the left under the deck is 33" high and beside the stairs 42".
Depending on the year built it may have required a handrail going up the stairs. Some of the stairs are 10" high.
Notice the pool on the upper patio? Kids certainly play here.
Kids love to walk on top of walls.
Kids don't worry about a fall. I know I didn't. I was a monkey and would have LOVED those walls!
It may be that the people called the County when they first built the patio and asked, "Do we need a permit to put in a patio?" To which the answer may have been, "No, not for a patio."
And maybe they failed to mention the walls and stairs. Or they weren't in the original plans. So there would have been no County follow up.
Again, looking to the right of the above photo, we have many stairs, without a handrail. In this instance one really might be necessary, not only to help people up and down the stairs, but to prevent a fall 48".
And look at the wall beside the play set. At its highest point it is 72" high.
There are other areas too with high walls not pictured here.
Now, are the sellers likely to want to put in guardrails and handrails? Of course not. They purposely built this without them. Such things would destroy the ambiance and views!
And the expense of installing rails would be very high, I imagine.
Their answer to such a request would be, "We have small children and have lived here for xx years! We haven't had any problems!"
My recommendation: I think my clients will buy the house anyway, and maybe putting in handrails on the four stair cases. They did mention flower pots along the high walls to prevent climbing and walking. That's en excellent idea! This is one of those gray zones that people have to make their own decisions about! As for me, I thought the place was gorgeous the way it is now! But that is just me! Okay, maybe a few flower pots!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560