Author Topic: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?  (Read 778 times)

9ft5wt

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STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« on: September 01, 2020, 06:45:10 PM »
I just purchased a cabin to use as a short term rental. We bought the home with no contingencies, but had it inspected for our own peace of mind.
The inspection turned up nothing major beyond usual wear and tear, but it did list a safety concern that I have questions about.
This cabin has a really cool cantilevered staircase. It runs along a wall and there is a bannister on the wall. However, the other side of the staircase is wide open with no railing.
The inspection said this staircase is a safety concern and that we should install a railing on the open side.
Obviously, this would really change the way the staircase looks and we would prefer not to do it.
If we include in our rental agreement some warning about the staircase, is that enough to shield us from negligent liability? Or should we just put in a railing and forget about it to be safe?

secondcor521

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2020, 07:01:37 PM »
IANAL, but I would not think that a warning in your rental agreement would be sufficient.  I think a key question would be whether your current building and safety codes in your region would require the railing.  If so, and someone got hurt badly, I'd be pretty worried about a lawsuit.

If you're going to rent it out, I'd put in the railing.  It might even be something that you can deduct as part of your rental business, but check with your tax advisor on that.

waltworks

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2020, 10:02:50 PM »
That sounds like a hideous code violation, and a major liability.

I'd have a building inspector or contractor go through the place and find anything (GFCI outlets, bannisters/railings/egress/etc) that is not to code and fix it all. Owning a rental is a major responsibility and a bad accident that involves something not built to code... potential disaster.

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bacchi

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2020, 11:16:04 PM »
Yes, put in the railing. You don't want to get a call about some kid falling over the staircase and getting a concussion; even if you later win the lawsuit, you'd have to live with it.

There are some nice railing designs out there. Avoid the suburban wood posts from Big Box Hardware and do something nice with metal.

Dogastrophe

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2020, 05:03:51 AM »
That sounds like a hideous code violation ...


Not necessarily. Building codes vary from area to area. In my part of the world, an open cantilevered stairway meets our building code as long as there is a stair rail on the wall side, which the OP states his stair rail has.

BikeFanatic

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2020, 06:33:28 AM »
Still it is a rental, and I picture children or drunk youths falling off the side. If it wasn’t a rental then no rail is needed especially since you have on on the wall side. Just my two cents.

Fishindude

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2020, 06:45:50 AM »
Put up a railing, that just sounds stupid and very dangerous.
It's not worth the worry.

Jon Bon

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2020, 07:39:49 AM »
Something that I see over and over again on this thread is: "Is this xyz thing up to code?"

And the answer is pretty much no building that exisits is up to current code. The code changes all the time, but houses are not required to change with it because that would be really stupid.

So is your railing up to 2020 code? Almost certainly not, but was it code when it was built? Possible.

However in a short term rental where people are on vacation and having a good time? I would have something up there yesterday. Certainly there is a way to do it that still looks good. Its asking for trouble and insurance might give you shit about it if there was a claim. That my friend is the nightmare scenario.

waltworks

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2020, 08:24:01 AM »
That sounds like a hideous code violation ...


Not necessarily. Building codes vary from area to area. In my part of the world, an open cantilevered stairway meets our building code as long as there is a stair rail on the wall side, which the OP states his stair rail has.

I understood this to mean that one could simply fall off the open part of the stairs (ie, not only no _handrail_ but no railing/barrier at all). Is there somewhere in the world (that actually *has* building codes) that allows a stairway of any significant height to simply be open on one side?

-W

FINate

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2020, 08:46:59 AM »
Put big warning signs on the stairs ;-)

Code or not, safety is a non-negotiable for me since this comes down to loving others. Any drop more than 3' needs a railing.

And not just for kids, but older folks as well. A few years ago an older acquaintance died after falling off an 8' ladder. He was in good health and wasn't doing anything unreasonable, simply lost his balance and hit his head on the ground. Brain swelling, coma, then death. Gravity is very unforgiving.

From what you've described I picture stairs that are a modern design. So go for metal with cable railings or something similar.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2020, 08:49:13 AM by FINate »

9ft5wt

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2020, 09:30:31 AM »
Thanks, everyone. I just spoke with the local building code officer and anything above 30" needs a railing. You're also right that it's in our best interest to make the place safe. We are going to cancel a booking to get a railing up ASAP.
Thanks for your opinions.

crocheted_stache

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2020, 09:37:02 AM »
You can do something that is in keeping with the style of the building, but definitely put up a railing.

Humans under the age of about six are universally fascinated with stairs and ill-equipped to negotiate them. Older humans, even when not drunk, suffer balance and vision decay, along with various injuries and incapacities that make stairs a tough proposition. The least you can do is to enclose yours and provide something more to grasp.

Dogastrophe

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2020, 05:25:19 AM »
That sounds like a hideous code violation ...


Not necessarily. Building codes vary from area to area. In my part of the world, an open cantilevered stairway meets our building code as long as there is a stair rail on the wall side, which the OP states his stair rail has.

I understood this to mean that one could simply fall off the open part of the stairs (ie, not only no _handrail_ but no railing/barrier at all). Is there somewhere in the world (that actually *has* building codes) that allows a stairway of any significant height to simply be open on one side?

-W

Below is a snip from the Ontario (Canada) building code. The other Provinces are very similar in wording. I'm not saying it's safe, but it is legal.

THE ONTARIO BUILDING CODE | HANDRAILS

3.4.6.5. handrails

(1) A stairway shall have a handrail on at least one side, and if 1100 mm or more in width, shall have handrails on both sides.

waltworks

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2020, 08:07:26 AM »
That sounds like a hideous code violation ...


Not necessarily. Building codes vary from area to area. In my part of the world, an open cantilevered stairway meets our building code as long as there is a stair rail on the wall side, which the OP states his stair rail has.

I understood this to mean that one could simply fall off the open part of the stairs (ie, not only no _handrail_ but no railing/barrier at all). Is there somewhere in the world (that actually *has* building codes) that allows a stairway of any significant height to simply be open on one side?

-W

Below is a snip from the Ontario (Canada) building code. The other Provinces are very similar in wording. I'm not saying it's safe, but it is legal.

THE ONTARIO BUILDING CODE | HANDRAILS

3.4.6.5. handrails

(1) A stairway shall have a handrail on at least one side, and if 1100 mm or more in width, shall have handrails on both sides.

No, no. A handrail is not the same thing as a railing. I guarantee you're required to have a railing.

-W

Dogastrophe

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2020, 11:27:35 AM »
That sounds like a hideous code violation ...


Not necessarily. Building codes vary from area to area. In my part of the world, an open cantilevered stairway meets our building code as long as there is a stair rail on the wall side, which the OP states his stair rail has.

I understood this to mean that one could simply fall off the open part of the stairs (ie, not only no _handrail_ but no railing/barrier at all). Is there somewhere in the world (that actually *has* building codes) that allows a stairway of any significant height to simply be open on one side?

-W

Below is a snip from the Ontario (Canada) building code. The other Provinces are very similar in wording. I'm not saying it's safe, but it is legal.

THE ONTARIO BUILDING CODE | HANDRAILS

3.4.6.5. handrails

(1) A stairway shall have a handrail on at least one side, and if 1100 mm or more in width, shall have handrails on both sides.

No, no. A handrail is not the same thing as a railing. I guarantee you're required to have a railing.

-W

Ya, you're correct. I had handrail in my head.

Out of curiosity I chatted with a friend who is a municipal building inspector - he said that *if* a house that has an open side on stairs had a final inspection and was issued an occupancy permit it would have had a railing at the time of the inspection. He said it's pretty common for ppl to remove things post final inspection.

9ft5wt

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Re: STR - must I remedy a 'safety concern' from home inspection?
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2020, 06:25:13 AM »
Update:
The stairs has neither a handrail nor a railing on the open side. It's a cantilever staircase flush against a wall, with a brass handrail on the wall side. The open side has no barrier of any kind.

Local code officer says "new work must be to code", which does not clarify whether or not an existing item that an inspection indicates is a 'safety concern' is a mandatory repair.

Considering tenants of all ages, health, and states of consciousness, and for peace of mind, we are going to cancel $3k worth of bookings and install a cable rail system.

Thanks everyone!