Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: We purchased a condo last year and had it professionally inspected. The inspector could not see the gas line for the patio barbecue because it was under the concrete slab. But the seller assured us that it was installed to code. He volunteered this information while taking us on a tour of the home. Recently, we removed the patio to replace it with brick pavers. It turned out the gas line was on top of the soil, directly under the concrete. The paving company won’t install the new patio until we have the gas pipe buried at the required depth of 18 inches. Are the sellers responsible for this plumbing work, or must we swallow the cost? Denise

Dear Denise: Sellers often make statements about code compliance in utter ignorance of the building code. In fact, home inspectors laugh among themselves about sellers who say, “We built the addition without a permit, but everything was done to code.” Unless sellers are architects or building contractors, they have no way of knowing whether code compliance has been met. If you combine the building code, the plumbing code, the mechanical code, and the electrical code, you have a set of books about five inches thick and written in esoteric language that is essentially foreign techno-speak to the average person.

The “craftsman” who installed the gas line below your patio, without burying it 18 inches below grade, was obviously not a professional. This means that the seller installed a gas line (or had some other unqualified person install it) and did so without a required building permit. Since the seller represented the gas line as being “installed to code,” it would be reasonable to request that he make that line comply with his own disclosure. If he does not agree, a small claims judge would be likely to rule in your favor.

Be sure to take photos of the gas line before having it replaced.