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Building Code


Building standards as imposed by the local, state, and federal government.


Local, state, and the federal governments set forth minimum building standards for the safety of residential and commercial real estate. This section will highlight California’s standards for the safety of real estate dwellings. The section will also explain the various building codes given different components of a property.

Federal Regulations

Building codes are legal regulations which govern the minimum safety standards for the design, construction, and alteration of real estate dwellings.

The purpose of building codes is to create safety standards for the health and safety of building users and occupants.

Since the early 1900s individual states began creating minimum property requirements in an attempt to promote safe housing.

The end result was a drastic improvement in building safety.

Property owners that do not meet the standards set forth by the government may have to adjust the property to meet legal specifications.

Banks and government run financial institutions, such as the FHA, do not provide loans to property owners whose properties do not meet the minimum building standards.

The Public Buildings Amendments of 1988, 40 U.S.C. 3312, requires buildings to be altered if they do not comply with nationally recognized building models.

There are various federal family codes.

State Regulations

Building codes are legal provisions which lay out the minimum standards of safety for real estate dwellings.

Since the early 1900s individual states began creating minimum property requirements in an attempt to promote safe housing.

The state of California regulates property safety codes.

To enforce the rules and regulations of minimum safety codes, the states requires contractors to pass contractor tests that deem them proficient in performing work to the standards set forth by the various government agencies.

The Department of Housing and Community Development is tasked with establishing and updating the minimum standards for construction. Each locale has specific construction standards.

The standards are enforced by city agents who perform inspections during the building process. Uniform codes create the industry standard that licensed contractors must follow.

While national building codes remain foundational as they relate to state and local building codes, each state and locale have their own individual codes that represent the interests of their specific city and state.

In the event state and federal codes conflict with one another, federal law supersedes.

Although the federal government delegates real estate and property-related law to the state, the implementation of building codes is made at the city level.

Because each city has unique characteristics that differ from other parts of the state, only the city has ability to create codes that best meet their particular needs.

Each building must conform to the building codes and safety laws set forth by the local county. A landlord of a property that does not meet local standards cannot collect rent, issue a notice of rental increase, or initiate an eviction process (Civil Code 1942.4).

Real estate laws protect homeowners, consumers, sellers, buyers, and anyone else that buys, rents, or uses property.

These laws are created at the local, state, and federal levels.

They incorporate everything from local ordinances requiring specific building codes to federal laws that promote fair housing.

Governing real estate law as a whole are the United States Constitution and several of the Amendments held within it.

Government power can be delegated further still, from the state level to the county or city levels.

This ensures that the unique interests and needs of a particular community are met on a personalized level.

County and city agencies are responsible for creating and implementing local building codes, including zoning policy, traffic lights, and other vital services.

Specific rules and regulations are developed by agencies working in tandem with local residents.

Case Law As It Relates to Building Codes

Case Review: Aas v. Superior Court (2000)

The case, Aas v. Superior Court (2000) 24 Cal.4th 627., involved a dispute regarding developer’s liability.

A homeowners association (Aas) hired a developer to construct a building. The developer completed the project, but the resulting building was not in compliance with city building codes. It also had construction defects, including incorrect nailing patterns and tile installation. Aas brought a lawsuit against the developer and its contractors for negligence. It sought damages for the loss in property value.

The Superior Court ruled that the developer’s construction defects and code violations did not result in personal injury or direct physical damage to the property. Therefore, they could not be used as evidence. Aas appealed. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling. Aas appealed to the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court contended that homeowners could not sue for damages resulting in a loss of property value. It ruled that the developers were not liable for damages.