the approachable architect podcast

ask david: i have a garage window/property line problem.

amy s. from culver city, ca writes;

I’m in a pinch, perhaps you have some insight? 

My designer (working on getting her architectrual license) put two small windows in our garage design for us…and that wall is 2′ from property.  The city stamped the plans.  We framed and installed these windows last week.  inspector came out to inspect framing gave us a note that says, “take these windows down as you can only have windows on walls 3′ from property line.”   And they are right. 

I went to the city this morning and spoke with my plan checker who is very nice and appears to really want to help.  He remembers the inspector called him about this one last week..  But said his hands are tied because of code. 

My questions:

 1.  what approach can I take so I can keep these windows, if any? 

2.  if I truly have to take them down, how risky is it to put them back up after final inspection now that everyone is “aware”?  I really prefer to fly straight 100%, but I really feel keeping those windows will be important.

 3.  All and all, having these windows, designed, wall re-framed to accommodate them, purchase the actual windows….all this cost me several thousands.  And I’ve done everything I’m suppose…it doesn’t seem fair I have to absorb this cost and get no windows.  How does a situation like this get resolved?

david’s response;

david22I really do not like  it when this kind of thing happens to homeowners and i feel for you. Here are my thoughts; 

1. The building inspector is absolutely correct, the windows do need to be 3′ from the property line. Even if the city stamped the plans, the 3′ rule, which is code, still applies. And now that the inspector has seen it, you’re gonna have to take them out. there’s no way around that. You won’t get final inspection unless that is done. I highly doubt you’ll be able to claim these windows as existing now that the inspector has seen them.

2. I don’t know what the project looks like, but it’s expensive, dusty, and you’re tearing up work you just completed if you install them after final inspection.

3. While I agree it doesn’t seem fair you should absorb these costs, this is exactly the kind of thing that can happen when you hire an unlicensed individual (it can happen with licensed people too, but you usually have better recourse, such as the california architects board).

4. Those windows should not have been designed into the project because of the 3′ rule.

5. I don’t know what fee you paid to the designer, but you could ask her to pay for her mistake and if she chooses not to, you could file a claim in small claims court. That’s really your only recourse. You cannot file a claim with the california architects board because she is not licensed (unless she claimed she was or presented herself as an architect).

 Here’s my recommendation in a nutshell;

 1. Remove the windows and don’t put them back in.

2. Talk to your designer about having her pay for the windows (materials and labor to install).

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