Building Code can't be adopted by state fire marshal for general construction issues.

A building contractor sued a homeowner for failure to pay the last installment due under the terms of a residential construction contract. The homeowner responded by filing a counterclaim against the contractor, alleging latent defects in the construction of the residence, slander of title, and breach of contract.

In April 2011, the day before a jury trial was set to begin in the case, the contractor moved that the Limestone County Circuit Court not allow the homeowner to introduce any evidence about violating the 1997 Standard Building Code. Among other things, the homeowner was set to maintain that the contractor had not constructed the residence according to the code. The homeowner’s expert witness was set to testify that the contractor had violated the code’s standards about—

  1. The number of brick ties and anchor bolts to be used.
  2. The proper construction of brick-veneer walls.
  3. The use of weepholes (opening in the brick veneer and foundational materials to allow water and condensation to escape from the foundation area).
  4. The use of concrete reinforcement in the construction of foundation walls.
  5. The construction of block piers.
  6. The construction of homes accessible to handicapped individuals.

The circuit court granted the motion limiting the introduction of evidence about the building code. The case went to trial and the jury returned a verdict of $55,461.96 against the homeowner, who appealed this judgment to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

In his appeal, the homeowner asserted that the 1997 Standard Building Code had been adopted by the state fire marshal and therefore applied to all residential construction in the entire state.

The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s opinion finding that the state fire marshal only had the power to adopt those parts of the building code that related to fire prevention and protection. The violations alleged by the homeowner did not have any relation to fire prevention and protection and therefore didn’t apply to residential construction in Limestone County. See Ridnour v. Brownlow Homebuilders, Inc., decided March 16, 2012.

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Published March 16, 2012 Posted in News About the Law
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