Authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and home inspector

The Role of an Authority Having Jurisdiction in Home Inspection

By Published On: May 6th, 2024Categories: Home Inspection Career Guide0 Comments

Authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) are responsible for enforcing code and maintaining safety standards of homes. As a home inspector, AHJs can be a great resource and might be necessary to call in for backup especially in homes that need special attention. Here’s everything you need to know about the role of an authority having jurisdiction in home inspection. 

What is an AHJ? 

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) defines an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) as “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.”  

Put simply, that’s any authority that can set and verify safety codes and regulations for properties in a particular area. Not every home across the United States will have the same building codes, though. And the AHJ who can come evaluate the electrical wiring of a home may not be the same one to make sure the water on the property is safe to drink. 

Generally, you should look to local and state AHJs for things like building code, fire safety, and electrical systems. Federal AHJs are responsible for larger regulations, like environmental protections. AHJ domains include: 

  • Local 
  • Regional 
  • State 
  • Federal departments 

Building, electrical, fire, and health codes are all complex, so generally, not one specialist will be the authority-of-all-authorities. Here are some examples of different AHJ specialists that you will likely come across: 

  • Fire marshal 
  • Health department 
  • Electrical inspector 
  • Building inspector 

Authority Having Jurisdiction in Home Inspection

Think of your role as the first line of defense against old, dysfunctional parts of a home that can make or break a property. The AHJ, then, is the special ops team. While home inspectors look at the general condition of a home, AHJs are called in for specialized concerns and safety regulations. 

For example, you might notice some seriously overloaded circuits, outdated wiring, or other electrical issues in a home you’re inspecting. These are safety issues that need a closer look, so you should advise your client to contact the city electrical inspector to do further investigation. 

There are a few other ways you might cross paths with an AHJ in your day-to-day inspecting homes: 

  • Renovations: If you determine a home needs renovations that require permits, a local municipality building inspector might be involved to make sure the home is compliant with building standards and regulations. 
  • Code violations: If you notice a home is violating a safety code, or certain parts look out-of-date, an AHJ should come in to further inspect the property. 
  • Pre-sale inspections: As a precaution, an AHJ may be called on to verify that a property is up to date with current codes and standards before it can be sold.

The Different Faces of AHJs 

Authorities having jurisdiction are not one-size-fits-all. They’re specialists for a reason! Here are the four most common AHJs you may come across or need to call on during your inspections. It’s a good idea to get familiar with them, so you have an insider you can reach out to for help on the job. 

Fire Safety 

Fire marshals inspect properties to ensure they’re compliant with the NFPA’s safety codes. Some things they look for include: 

  • Fire safety tools like smoke alarms 
  • Fire sprinkler heads (where appropriate) 
  • Faulty heating systems 
  • Fire-resistant doors, walls, and insulation 
  • Accessible exit routes 

Structural Integrity 

Building inspectors are typically focused on the structural components of a home, like: 

  • Foundation, framing, and roofing building codes 
  • Plumbing systems compliance with health and safety codes 
  • HVAC system installation and energy efficiency standards 

Public Health & Safety 

Local health departments are responsible for overseeing sanitary conditions like: 

  • Water quality 
  • Waste disposal 
  • Pest control 
  • Septic systems 
  • Mold 
  • Air quality 

Electrical Evaluation 

Electrical inspectors work to enforce local electrical safety standards and codes. As you might expect, they oversee areas like the following: 

  • Faulty or dated wiring 
  • Circuit breakers 
  • Electrical panels 

How to Determine the Appropriate AHJ 

Ask yourself the following questions when you run into an issue that might need the special attention of an AHJ: 

  • What is the nature of the issue? 
  • Is this a local issue or a federal issue? 
  • What are the regulatory requirements for the area I’m working in right now? 

If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions, a good rule of thumb is to start small. This is where having a connection to a local AHJ, like the fire marshal, can come in handy. Ask them for their guidance when you need it. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction! 

Be the Authority in Your Career 

When it comes to your career path, you get to have the final say on what’s working and what isn’t. Ready to kick your training up a notch? Or want to learn a little more about the ins and outs of home inspection? You’re the boss, so take the lead. 

About the Author: Lizzie DesRosiers

Lizzie DesRosiers is a Content Specialist with AHIT and The CE Shop. She is an expert in home inspection, appraisal, and real estate. Along with bringing her knowledge of the field to each piece, she prides herself on sharing information that is thoroughly researched and easy to absorb.

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