Building Codes and Inspections/Basement access

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Question
Schenectady, NY. 2 family apartment horizontal split. The basement door leads from the basement to a common hallway, the basement door is padlocked.

The owners use the basement for social functions and storage. Our storage is down there as well. The steam radiation boilers and water heaters, both gas and electric, as well as the breaker boxes and meters are down there. The owners are mostly working, and the electric grid for the first floor does not meet code.

Is the lock on the basement door, which is not fire rated, and poorly installed, in violation of building/housing code?

The gas boiler also fails inspection, the support ring for the boiler is rusted away, compromising the integrity of the boiler, which now leans at a 5 to 10 degree angle.

Steam radiation heat setup for the first floor is a separate unit from the second floor heating unit. The first floor heating unit needs constant attention, as the installer was not a professional, ignoring every basic installation requirement for a steam heat radiation setup. complete horizontal cold water returns instead of the 1-2 inch per foot drop of cold water return, bull horned steam main, no flush valve installation.

The breaker box requires constant attention, the entire first floor (lights and outlets) minus three outlets run on one breaker. The first floor consists of 7 rooms, 3 bed, one bath, one kitchen, 2 living rooms. When the washing machine is running, the draw on the circuit is visibly seen via the dimming of the lights in the house.

Owners signed a contract stating I can modify the premises without their permission, as long as code and law are not violated.

I need to know if the padlocked door violates code, as there are no egress windows in the basement, which is used by the owners for social functions.

I know i need to replace the shoddy makeshift door, but I will not return the padlock setup on said door if it violates code, and because we are not given a key to said padlock, which is a potential fire and escape hazard(in logical thought, I cannot find specific code relating to locked internal public access doors to a utility and furnished basement).

I really cannot start rebuilding the home (we will eventually buy it) until my list is finished.

Answer
Hi Robert -

This is from the 2010 Residential Code of New York State:  "R311.4.4 Type of lock or latch. All egress doors shall be readily openable from the side from which egress is to be made without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort."

In my opinion, it is not acceptable to use a padlock on a space that is occupied by people, and you mentioned that the basement is used for social functions.  The door should have a lock that allows free egress from the basement, especially if that is the only means of egress from the basement.

I hope this helps.

- Lori

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Lori Greene

Expertise

I can help with code questions related to doors and hardware. I am familiar with the IBC, NFPA 80, NFPA 101, NFPA 105, ADAAG, and ICC/ANSI A117.1. My expertise is specific to door openings.

Experience

I have worked in the door and hardware industry since 1986. I have conducted countless presentations on code requirements for doors and hardware, and maintain a blog related to doors and hardware (www.ihatehardware.com).

Organizations
Door & Hardware Institute (DHI) Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) International Code Councel (ICC)

Publications
Doors & Hardware Magazine

Education/Credentials
Vermont Technical College, Associate Degree in Architecture and Building Engineering Technology - 1986

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