Dear Barry,

Is it currently required that residential smoke detectors be hard-wired and networked together throughout a home? If so, when did these standards take effect? – Larry

Dear Larry,

Smoke alarms in dwellings must be hard-wired to the electrical system. This requirement was introduced in the 1979 Uniform Building Code. In 1991, the code was amended to include battery backup to ensure that alarms would remain operable in the event of a power failure during a fire.

Networking, which is the interconnection of all alarms within a home, was introduced as a requirement in the 2000 building code. The purpose of this new standard was to ensure that smoke at one end of a home would activate all alarms, including those at the opposite end of the dwelling. However, not all municipalities adopt code changes immediately or simultaneously. Each state, county and city code-enforcement agency accepts new versions of the building code in their own respective time frames. To determine when these codes became law in your area, consult your local building department.

Dear Barry,

How important is it for the buyer to be present for the home inspection? We are buying a home in another state. Attendance at the inspection may be difficult for us, and our agent says it’s not important that we be there. Are there any real advantages in attending the inspection? – Seva

Dear Seva,

Attending your home inspection is essential to obtaining a full understanding of the condition of the home you are buying. It is the only opportunity you will have to take your time examining the property, rather than simply walking through. More importantly, the value of the inspection is magnified when the inspector can verbally review the findings, show you the problems that were found, explain those problems, and answer all of your questions. Unfortunately, geographical distances can sometimes preclude the opportunity to attend the inspection. But when attendance is possible, don’t let anyone, not even your agent, convince you to forego this informative process. Advice to the contrary does not support your best interests.

Dear Barry,

One of your columns discussed who would be liable for failure to disclose an unpermitted building addition discovered by the buyer after closing escrow. You evaluated the positions of the seller and the home inspector, but you never mentioned the title insurance company. Wouldn’t they be responsible for related losses, and shouldn’t a title search reveal the lack of a building permit? – Quentin

Dear Quentin,

Title reports do not involve disclosures of property defects or determinations of permits for various stages of construction. Title insurance companies are exclusively concerned with issues that could adversely affect clear, uncontested ownership and unrestricted use of a property. Pertinent issues in this regard include deeds of trust securing loans, liens of various kinds, use easements, rights of way, use restrictions, and other related circumstances that could denigrate a property’s overall value and general use. There is no way that a title search would reveal an unpermitted addition, since the very circumstance of being unpermitted precludes the existence of a paper trail that would enable discovery.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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