Building codes are local or state laws that set standards of construction in buildings to protect the public's health and safety. Violating building codes can subject you to civil liability. Building codes regulate a number of a building's characteristics, including:
- Door height clearances
- Lighting levels
- Sanitary facilities
- Fire safety
- Energy conservation
The best way to ensure your building complies with all applicable building codes is to have the premises inspected by a certified professional engineer. If you intend to construct a building, as opposed to moving in to an older building, you must obtain a building permit. The local inspection agency generally has a checklist of persons whom you need to contact, such as the department of health and safety and the fire department.
If you are moving into an older building, do not assume that it is up to code. Local jurisdictions often revise their building codes and while the former owner may not have had to comply with the changes to the law, as the new owner you may have to. This may require you to make many improvements to the building in order to be in compliance with the code.
Constructing a building or taking over an older building is a major responsibility. Building codes can be very complicated and require compliance with many agencies. Speak with a real estate attorney with experience in construction law to ensure that your project gets off to the right start.