Building codes

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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:04 pm

Hi M,

Welcome!

Phil B, sounded like he was suggesting that the town use the Life Safety codes for existing buildings in town. They seem to take care of the major safety issues without being so likely to drive our landlords out of business. They are having enough trouble just heating their buildings.
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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:15 pm

Does anyone have any information regarding the meeting today?
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Re: Building codes

Post by Murph on Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:42 pm

Aren't these inspections supposed to be for multiple unit buildings only? I recieved a letter today from the Code Enforcement Office notifying me that I have less than a week to call them to set up an appointment for an inspection of my property. However, my property is a single unit, single family home, owned by myself, occupied by my family and I (not rented). Is this just an oversight or will they be checking every house in town as well apartment buildings?

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Re: Building codes

Post by Guest on Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:50 pm

Murph,
That's agood question. I was under the impression that it was only multiple units, but now I wonder.

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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:51 pm

I was under that impression too... we'll all be homeless...

Was it ever listed as a multi-unit with the town? I so perhaps they've simply not updated their records. Please let us know when you call and get some answers. I need to know if I'm going to have to shell out thousands in repairs or move...
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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Oct 25, 2008 5:40 pm

Just for clarification, I do believe that cookie-cutter ordinances, improperly applied to a community, can be detrimental. However, as always, I believe we must follow the rules until we are successful in changing them. If an unreasonable ordinance can be circumnavigated legally, then by all means I would consider it if the situation warrants.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Murph on Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:39 pm

It has never been a multi unit building.
For those interested I will post the letter.


Dear Building Owner,

As you are aware, the Town or Rumford will be conducting Fire safety inspections on all multi unit buildings consisting of 3 units or better. These inspections will be based on the NFPA with all applicable referenced codes, the International Building codes with all referenced codes and also Statutes of the state of Maine.

We will be conducting these inspections on (MY ADDRESS HERE) between November 3 & December 1. We would appreciate you contacting THE Town of Rumford Code Enforcement Office no later than October 31, 2008 to schedule an appointment to meet at your building(s). If you fail to contact the department by the date stated we can only assume you have granted the Town of Rumford permission to conduct the Inspection at our earliest convenience.

I thank you in advance for your time.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Richard J Kent
Code Enforcement Officer
145 Congress St
Rumford, Me 04276
207-364-7993


Last edited by Murph on Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:49 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling)

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 25, 2008 8:42 pm

It's probably just an error...
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Re: Building codes

Post by Murph on Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:05 pm

I thought it might be an error. Just seeing if anyone knew anything more. Thanks.

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:22 pm

It was my impression that their inspections were to be limited to structures with three or more units, but I may be wrong. Give them a call on Monday.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:33 pm

The letter says all multi unit building consisting of 3 units or better... sounds like Murph doesn't qualify.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Murph on Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:42 pm

I'll make a call Monday, I'll let you guys know what I hear.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:43 pm

good luck Murph!
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Re: Building codes

Post by Murph on Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:07 pm

I spoke with Mr. Kent today. It was just an error. He has taken my building off of the list. Let me just add that Mr. Kent was very polite and very helpful.

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Re: Building codes

Post by xmashen on Mon Oct 27, 2008 5:43 pm

nice to know that those whose errors strike fear into people are quick to apologize.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Guest on Mon Oct 27, 2008 6:09 pm

Murph, Thanks for letting us know. Many of us can now breathe a sigh of relief!

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Mon Oct 27, 2008 6:19 pm

osm!
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Re: Building codes

Post by Phil Blampied on Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:18 pm

Understanding the current codes situation requires an understanding of politics and power.

The codes were not written by a friendly group of New England small townspeople trying to do the right thing.

They are written by professional organizations and then peddled to municipalities as off-the-shelf, ready-to-go 200-plus-page documents. The muncipalities pick them up because they save an enormous amount of time, expertise and money that would go into each community developing its own.

But who are the professional organizations? There are several and they compete. Sitting on the code writing committees are vested interests. The cement manufacturers have a say in how thick your foundation should be. The electricians have a say in how your wiring should be done. And most importantly, the insurance lobbyists have a say in what should be done to prevent the possibility of their ever having to pay a claim.

We happen to use the NFPA fire code. ICC also has a fire code. We use one for building codes, but the other for fire codes. And there are others still. None has been handed down by the deity, and none represents perfect code science. We ourselves could try to distill what makes sense and what doesn't and enact that as an ordinance.

But we go with the pre-written codes, with excessively strict requirements that grow, in part, out of the vested interests who make more money if builders and contractors are forced to buy and install twice the materials that would be needed under a common sense rule.

Okay, so we start with excessive codes that benefit special interests. Then you get local code enforcement personnel. A local fire chief or CEO will rarely face any serious criticism for over-enforcing the code, interpreting it to the max. However, should the CEO let something slip and someone later get injured or killed, there would be hell to pay. So the CEO's, the fire personnel, also go to the maximum interpretation. They have the power, so they do what they need to do to cover their butts and don't worry much about the the squeaks and murmurs from the property owners they crush.

How do you stop this dynamic? If you haven't gotten my point yet, it's this: it's a power game. It can be stopped only by political resistance. JSN is doing something much needed: she's giving the landlords a voice and a focus and a political agent to organize against excessive application of excessive codes. She's the Pat LaMarche of the property owners.

The alternative is that Rumford will turn into a ghost town with most of the buildings abandoned due to, among other things, unreasonable enforcement of unreasonable codes. Go, Jennifer!

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:49 pm

Ok Phil, I've waded through most of that. Here's how I see it:

These properties need repairs/modifications that exceed what the landlords will get back in rent.

The market is very soft right now in Rumford - nobody knows what to do.

These units because of size and number of families, fall under state law and the state has adopted life safety and building codes; neither Rumford nor any other town can just ignore the state laws, regardless of whether someone thinks they are wrong.

Any homeowner, property owner or for that matter vehicle owner takes on the joy/headache of their purchase...sometimes the car won't run no matter how much we paid for it. The business economy indicates that housing markets will hit an all time low in June of '09. These buildings will be worth even less at that point, making it even less attractive to renovate/repair.

What do you suggest that's practical besides fighting the state laws? This problem isn't going to get better any time in the immediate future. We have the dilemna of ending up with buildings in even worse condition and the cost of repairs will be higher. We repeat this historical ignoring of things over and over in Rumford and call it revolutionary? I don't think so.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Phil Blampied on Mon Oct 27, 2008 8:32 pm

The fire codes are not state law, per se, but an administrative decision of the Fire Marshall's Office.

The Fire Marshall doesn't inspect every building. Rumford has chosen to do that on its own.

Further, the fire codes are subject to interpretation. As I said, enforcement personnel tend to go to the maximum interpretation for self-protection.

The town can approach the inspection process with the clear intention of not causing half the buildings in town to be condemned or abandoned. Or it can do a maximumalist approach, and decimate the housing stock. The political incentives flow in favor of just kicking the property owners in the butt and not caring about the results and turning Rumford into the new South Bronx. Only political push back by the property owners can bring about the best result for the community: a balanced enforcement program that doesn't drive tenants from their homes or landlords from their investments.

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Re: Building codes

Post by C on Mon Oct 27, 2008 8:53 pm

Is it unreasonable to expect a landlord to hard wire smoke detectors? To fix unstable railings? Provide a means of escape from a third floor apartment? Have a window open without having to break it? I think many of these violations are common sense. It that landlord can't do these things he shouldn't have tenants.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Phil Blampied on Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:00 pm

You haven't followed the primary issues. The state fire marshall's local representatives, with Wentzell and Kent following suit, want to require pull alarms in most local buildings. The logic: they interpret basements as a "story" and four-story buildings, by the code, require pull alarms. Does the code say flat out, "basements are stories"? No. It's an interpretation of the height definition of stories. And it also ignores the sections of the fire code which suggest enforcement agents take into account alternative strategies for historic structures. And even the four story pull alarm requirement is probably an example of vested interests writing their financial interests into the code.

If you are the C who used to post on the Doar blog that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with our codes, I must say, I told you so.

Question: if a property is worth $35,000, isn't any attempt by the government to require $40,000 in repairs a form of government taking, since the property will still be worth $35,000 after the $40k is spent? And if so, shouldn't the same kind of due process apply that is used in eminent domain?

Vive la resistance!

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:06 pm

Phil, I think your first two sentences are double speak for Rumford follows the state's fire codes.

Yes, I agree that codes are subject to some interpretation, and in your perspective, with personnel tendency for max. interpretation for self-protection...possibly.

Your political incentives argument is negated by the building owner saying he can't get local contractors to fix his problems...I didn't read anything about anyone wanting to kick him in the butt, not caring or (omg!) turning Rumford into the new South Bronx...a little too much dramatic emphasis don't ya think?

Sorry Phil but I think we have a balanced enforcement program in place that needs a bit of tweaking with maybe some assistance given to landlords if they are interested in understanding what needs fixing and need help to formulate a reasonable a plan.

Honestly, there are many apartment owners who take pride in the upkeep of their buildings...why should the town coddle those not interested? This man just had to come up with a plan and he didn't do it... maybe if I ignore the problem it will just go away?

As for economic development, there are plenty of people who buy buildings to make a profit - why not? I ask you, however, is it ethical to make cosmetic repairs, try to hide the major underlying flaws and say it's not my problem? Some people are comfortable with that...I think it's dishonest. This is a big topic. I resent it being reduced to a political sideshow, complete with kids missing Christmas...that to me is exploitation at its finest.
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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:12 pm

I don't know what the case is but if the basement is inhabited (some are) then I would consider it a story. Phil, should the government reimburse everyone because their houses are being devalued due to the current recession? Where are you going with that?
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Re: Building codes

Post by Guest on Tue Oct 28, 2008 7:07 am

My understanding (and I think this applies only to multi-family dwellings, but I'm not positive....and I don't know if it at all applies to duplexes):
If the floor to ceiling height in the basement is more than 6 feet, then the code states the basement can be considered a story.
If your basement is 7 feet, and you put in a suspended ceiling that is only 5'11" high, then you are exempt from your basement being considered a story.
Fair?? Make sense??

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Re: Building codes

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