In Win for Builders and Landlords, St. Paul Softens Code Requirements for Older Homes

Home builders successfully argued that old homes should have different window egress requirements.

It’s not often that you see building codes taking a step backward, but that’s just what happened this month in St. Paul, as city officials changed the rules for owners of older properties.

As reported by Frederick Melo a the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:

“Everything will go back to the historical reference to when that house was built, unless you alter that property,” says Robert Humphrey, a spokesman for the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections. “If you alter the property, you have to bring it up to the current code.”

Stone, of the builders association, said that in practice, city inspectors have been adjusting inspections accordingly since her organization fought the city in court five years ago. The council vote makes it official.

The council decison began with BuildersAssociation pushback against rules concerning window egress in older homes:

In 2012, the Minnesota Court of Appeals effectively ruled against St. Paul’s insistence on having homeowners bring even century-old window openings up to modern size and safety standards. The Builders Association of Minnesota filed suit.

The Builders Association of Minnesota argued that the policy, which was intended to make it easier to flee a house during a fire or another emergency, actually made properties less safe. The policy effectively forced landlords to cut into concrete or stucco walls to make window openings larger in their rental properties.

As a result of the policy, rather than replace windows that had been painted shut, many homeowners simply decided to skip costly replacements and leave the old windows as-is.

Read the article at the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.




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