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Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know Were Part of the Code

AKA:  When the City Lets You Off the Hook

Occasionally, there are things in the City of Grand Rapids Property Maintenance Code that run counter to the code that was in place when homes were built.  Some of these are just plain annoying while others would seriously impair the use of a home.  The most serious situation is where ceiling heights in existing bedrooms are less than the minimum code requirement.  In some properties this would effectively outlaw all the existing bedrooms.

To eliminate repeated appeal cases being brought to the fore in these situations, the City of Grand Rapids Housing Appeals Board sets policies to deal with them.  Here are the current policies that all rental property owners and investors should be aware of:

 

Allowable Ceiling Heights

Ceiling heights of 6’ 3” and higher are considered to be in compliance with the code.  Additional requirements:

 

  • Does not apply to “drop” ceilings.
  • Ceiling heights of less than 6’ 3” must be approved through permitted reconstruction or an approved waiver.
  • Smoke alarms must be in approved location, preferably located on the wall.
  • Any sloped ceiling must comply with the existing Property Maintenance Code.
  • Light fixtures must be recessed or a surface mounted type designed to hug the ceiling.

 

Receptacle in Toilet Rooms

Toilet rooms may exist without a receptacle.  Additional requirements:

 

  • A toilet room is defined as a room containing a water closet or urinal but not a bathtub or shower.

 

Toilet Room Ventilation

Toilet rooms may exist without ventilation.  See definition of “toilet room” above.  Ventilation is typically required by either an openable window or exhaust fan.

 

Lavatory Alternative

Some “toilet rooms” were built without a sink/lavatory which is required per the code.  In those cases where a lavatory cannot be easily installed, an easily refillable liquid hand sanitizing station shall be permanently installed.  (A counter top bottle dispenser of hand sanitizer is not an acceptable alternative.)

 

In all cases, the inspector should document the use of the policy in case notes.

 

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