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Thread: Handrail Question Permit Question

  1. #1
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    Handrail Question Permit Question

    Okay here is the question about a home 45+ years of age:

    Client's insurance company did a drive by and sent the homeowner a letter that they must install a handrail (Not Guards) or the policy will be canceled and gave them xyz time.

    Went out, spoke with them, and the upper porch is over 30 inches, but needs to be fixed before I would make guards. Needs new porch first, insurance does not care about the porch just wants handrail.

    So with that said, if I were to submit a permit in AHJ for just a handrail on the steps, would the review and inspection be required to install the guards.

    In a more simpler question, if I applied for a permit to install a handrail and your office issued the permit for the handrail on the steps would you or is the building official allowed to then require the guards when the permit is only requested for the handrail?

    I drew a plan view below for reference.

    The client is not against doing the guards, but the insurance company does not care about the guards just the handrail and there is not enough time or money in the budget to rip the porch down now and do all over.

    Client wants to do the handrail for now and the rest later in the year when better funded.

    Does the code allow for requesting work be done for an item like this when not requested on the permit?

    Thanks for the input....


  2. #2
    Sawhorse
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    I guess I have to ask - what's the whole purpose of the request? Is it to GET a permit or to SATISFY a ("drive-by") insurance company? Is this something that DEMANDS (by code) a permit? While the addition of the handrail **may** bring other questions **IF** there is a code violation, would you (TBZ) have issued a violation order on this porch if the homeowners had NOT contacted you about it? How many OTHER residences have been "tagged" due to "drive-by's" that you haven't been notified about?

    For me (as a licensed Architect and NOT a code official), I would be looking at "What's the real issue here?" Is it something that may remotely be a REAL life safety item, or is it a drive-by home-inspector-wanna-be-who's-justifying-his/her-paycheck-to-the-insurance-company that needs to show what they've done all day/week/month long?

    To me it makes more sense to let the homeowner know that it's NOT a permit issue that they need to be worried about now - unless their insurance company is DEMANDING a NEW permit based on a BUILDING CODE requirement that REQUIRES bringing the **ENTIRE** structure into compliance with the current code. And with THAT, they SHOULD be worried if they have a home older than 2 years old!!!

    Of course ... this is only my very, HUMBLE opinion ...
    Highest Regards,

    Alan T. Hendry
    Architect

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    The fact that a permit is issued or not issued really does not matter in my jurisdiction. The fact is the homeowner (contractor) would still have to comply with the applicable codes. If a handrail is installed on a stairway having enough risers to required said handrail, and if the elevation is measured and meets the requirements to need a guardrail, then both need to meet the code in effect at the time of installation. If either, or neither is met, then liability also comes into the picture if something would happen such as a fall. I have never understood how it is cheaper to do something twice instead of doing it right the first time. Since this is an existing building of some age, it either continues as is as a non-conforming structure or a complying handrail/guardrail gets installed. No middle ground here.

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    Contact the local AHJ and get it straight from the horses' mouth.

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    Moderator cboboggs's Avatar
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    I agree with Mac on this one. Consult with the local building department and see what their take on this is.

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    Sawhorse
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    I would say no, however you look at it you are making a bad situation better and to force the homeowner to spend more money to fix an existing situation seems unreasonable. I would check with the AHJ though because ultimately it is their decision.

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    Good morning,

    Here is the issue in my area, the insurance companies are requiring handrails all the time from home owners weather the code requires them or not.

    The time lines they give to comply is 30 days period. Some, (the ones with larger fees) allow a copy of a contract to be submitted and give a 90 day extension, others (the less costly) give 30 days no choice.

    Very common here and I will say it, they S*&K.

    Anyway, for the sake of argument here, homeowners don't want guards on the porch, however do want handrails on the steps, very common here with the landscapers.

    Lets keep the question more on point,

    I the contractor by NJ state law am required to make sure the project I am working on has a building permit pulled for the installation of a required handrail.

    Hence even though the home was not required to have a handrail when built, now that I am installing a handrail in a location that would require a handrail by today's code.

    When the permit is pulled just for the handrail, by code can the AHJ require the guards be installed? Look at the sketch.

    As to calling the AHJ, I don't have a problem with that, the thing is NJ is under a statewide building, when I call the state, they tell me it is a required element permit required, so that is what I go by.

    However, some towns tell me please leave no permit required, some tell me here is your permit for the handrail and others tell me you have to install guards.

    Remember all the towns are using the same code book as adopted.

    So I keep getting tired of this and are looking for insight from others.

    It so happens that I have a client, times are tough, has no problem with installing the temp handrail and then going back out and take his time to select a contractor to remove the front porch, prop up the roof, dig a new foundation and so on.

    But the insurance company, one that is uncompromising, has thrown a wrinkle in to the mix in that they want a handrail there now, period. (This company is real cheap and pretty much a total P&!@K.

    Since the the existing front entry, because of code reasons won't be built the same on the porch level, but the stairs can be built they same, the client was looking to just purchase the handrails now and re-install them when he re-does the porch and at that time.

    Forgetting all the other money reasons, simply if I submit a permit for just handrails and not guards, does the code say that the AHJ can require you to do additional work on the porch, remember handrails are on the steps?

    Thanks

  8. #8
    Sawhorse mjesse's Avatar
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    IF it came over my desk as you describe it..

    I would allow for a handrail to be built without permit. You are making an existing, non-conforming situation safer.

    When the time comes to rebuild the porch, all new work should be done under permit, and comply with current code.

    $0.02, mj
    If the head goes through, the rest can too. - Yankee

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    My opinion is that installing just a code compliant handrail meets the requirements of the IEBC.

    If the Code Official wants guards too, they need to have the balls to condemn the stoop using the property codes.

    In other words, make the code official pay the band before you dance his tune.

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    Sawhorse TJacobs's Avatar
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    What mjesse and Inspector 102 said. Since this is an existing building no handrail (ever?), no guards (ever?), existing nonconforming, handrail and guard not required.

    I would not issue a permit for the handrail only where a guard would also be required and expose my village to the liability.
    Jake

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    Sawhorse mark handler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJacobs View Post
    Since this is an existing building no handrail (ever?), no guards (ever?), existing nonconforming, handrail and guard not required.
    I agree Jake
    Work with them and allow them to provide the guards at a later date.
    Last edited by mark handler; March 25th, 2011 at 11:39.
    “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”― Mark Twain

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    Sawhorse mtlogcabin's Avatar
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    Having done over a hundred of these type of insurance inspections. The insurance company is looking to reduce the slip and fall claims on steps, ramps and sidewalks. They are not concerned with what code was in effect at the time it was built. The inspector has recommended a handrail be installed and the insurance company is following through with that recommendation to reduce their exposure. I have had to make the same recommendations on my reports even though I new from the age of the house and it was not a code requirement at the time of construction.

    From a AHJ side I would not require a permit for a handrail for the reasons TJacobs pointed out.
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  13. #13
    Sawhorse
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    I would also not require a permit for this situation, nor would I require that gaurds be installed.

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    Moderator Mule's Avatar
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    So the insurance company don't care about the substandard porch hut wants handrails? That sounds about right!

    If the insurance wants the porch to comply then then the homeowner should request the insurance company to pay for replacing the substandard porch. Then you could require the whole project to comply. Of course the deductable will be more than the cost of a new porch.

    On another note... When the insurance company specified handrails they might not have known the difference between a handrail and a gaurdrail. The homeowner may want to verify that handrails is the only requirement they are requesting.

    Now back to the original question. No I wouldn't require a permit for just a handrail installation. Something is better than nothing!
    Mule
    Building Official
    Texas

    Built to Code = Building the worst that the code will allow!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TJacobs View Post
    What mjesse and Inspector 102 said. Since this is an existing building no handrail (ever?), no guards (ever?), existing nonconforming, handrail and guard not required.

    I would not issue a permit for the handrail only where a guard would also be required and expose my village to the liability.
    Which code section lists village exposure to liability as a consideration when issuing a permit?

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    I want to thank you all for your input on this subject it puts some perspective to the gambit of different requirements towns request or don't request time and time again.

    Mule,

    The insurance companies have been doing this here for over a decade now, they use to only require older homes to install handrails in places that the building code, at time of this inspection, would require. However, now the cheapo companies are requiring them weather code requires it or not.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by mjesse View Post
    IF it came over my desk as you describe it..

    I would allow for a handrail to be built without permit. You are making an existing, non-conforming situation safer.

    When the time comes to rebuild the porch, all new work should be done under permit, and comply with current code.

    $0.02, mj
    I would have to agree with mjesse - built to current code and permit required when new porch is built.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbz View Post
    I want to thank you all for your input on this subject it puts some perspective to the gambit of different requirements towns request or don't request time and time again.

    Mule,

    The insurance companies have been doing this here for over a decade now, they use to only require older homes to install handrails in places that the building code, at time of this inspection, would require. However, now the cheapo companies are requiring them weather code requires it or not.

    Tom
    It's a private transaction and no more unreasonable than the bank running your credit before making a loan.

    Keep in mind that the homeowner can find another insurance company and not provide the handrail.

    Or they can just go without insurance at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alias View Post
    I would have to agree with mjesse - built to current code and permit required when new porch is built.
    Me too. When they redo the porch they would need a permit and inspection until then nothing.

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    brudgers, the village people had a good tune to dance too!

    That's why I stay at the YMCA!

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