And that is true - condos have fire protection between units for a reason.
Arriving at a condo development, with many small buildings, each building with two levels and housing 10 or 12 units, I was met by the buyer (who already lived in a different building) and the seller.
They were talking about the development and the topic turned to a fire that happened a couple of years ago. It started outside, probably at an AC compressor, spreading up the side of the building and then passed quickly through various attic spaces to severely damage 7 units.
I wondered how it was that a fire could spread so easily and quickly. Each upper-level condo should be separated from the others in the attic space with some type of fire-blocking, fire-impeding drywall. That is not to say that fire cannot pass, but the intent is to slow its progression dramatically, if not hopefully contain it.
Going into the attic I looked off toward the common wall between my subject unit and the unit next door.
I saw three areas with dramatic cracks, gaps and holes.
There was also a PVC tube partially hidden by insulation. When that happens I understood the fire code to require a protective sleeve around the tubing to seal the hole.
I saw no sleeve.
My experience with townhouse and condo pre-drywall inspections is that a construction mistake or problem in one often translates elsewhere, with the same mistake being made there.
Could the fire in that other building have passed in the attic unit to unit because of cracked and gapping firewalls, or pipes without sleeves?
I don't know, but my buyer, on the board in the development, was going to bring this up immediately with the management company and even call her brother who is a Fire Marshall in another nearby city!
There are probably 20 such buildings. How many have this problem?
My recommendation: conditions in one building do not necessary indicate similar such conditions in others. But, as I said, in my experience, often construction mistakes and problems in one have been done elsewhere. Obviously this was never caught. And an electrician was in this unit, and in the attic, not long before me and had said nothing. What I do is observe and report. Where things go from here will be interesting to hear. They promised to call me.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560