5 Common Department of Housing Violations

When you’re a residential property owner, you have an obligation to follow the Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) guidelines. These regulations specify construction methods, occupancy limits, or other key aspects of private homes and multi-tenant properties. Unfortunately, these rules are complicated and it is easy for property owners to unintentionally run afoul of them.

Below is an overview of 5 common DOH violations. Working with an experienced Chicago real estate attorney can help you identify and correct them before they pose a safety risk to occupants and cause you to incur expensive fines.

  1. Improperly Installed Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors are required on every floor, inside every bedroom, and outside the doorway to every sleeping area. Ceiling alarms must also be a minimum of 4” away from walls and, ideally, installed at least three feet away from light fixtures, ceiling fans, and HVAC vents. Wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4” to 12” from the ceiling.

All devices in newly constructed buildings must be hard-wired with a battery backup and connected to one another so that if one goes off, all will activate. If you renovate an older property, all battery-only alarms must be updated to meet the latest requirements.

  1. No Handrail Returns

When you install handrails on staircases, each end must make a 90-degree turn and connect with the wall. Open ends can easily catch a loose sleeve or purse strap and potentially cause a serious accident.

  1. Defective or Missing GFCIs

Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection is now legally required for all electrical outlets in the bathroom, kitchen, garage, and outdoor areas. It is designed to prevent electrical shocks by cutting power to a circuit if it detects a current change. If you’re unsure whether GFCIs are present in your property, you can purchase a receptacle tester that tests for GFCIs and wiring problems such as open grounds and reverse polarity.

  1. Bad Deck Ledgering

If your property has a deck and it is not securely attached to the building with a ledger board, anyone who stands on it is at risk for serious injury. Ledgers must be screwed or bolted (no nailing) directly to the house frame and protected with flashing to protect them from moisture damage.

  1. Improper Bathroom Venting

If your bathroom ceiling has a humidity-controlled fan and it vents into an enclosed attic, it’s a close violation because the humid air can result in wood rot and mold growth. Your fan must expel this air outside via a vent pipe.

In Chicago, you have seven days to correct most building maintenance code violations. Failure to do so can result in:

  • A summons to appear before the General District Court OR
  • The city contractor making all required corrections at your expense. If you refuse or do not pay the invoice, a lien will be attached to the home or building.

Early detection of DOH violations allows you to correct them yourself and avoid more expensive repairs or, worse, a fine or lien. If you are concerned that your property may have code issues, the Auricchio Law Offices can assist by advising you on applicable regulations and helping you ensure efficient correction of any violations. To schedule a consultation, call 312-263-0010 or contact us.

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Auricchio Law Offices

Auricchio Law Offices in Chicago provides a complete range of real estate services. We facilitate residential and commercial real estate transactions, advise and represent condominium associations, and represent property owners in real estate litigation. Whatever your real estate issue, we will work diligently to achieve your goals in a timely and efficient manner.

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