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Building Codes and Inspections/Non Tempered Glass Window Accident


QUESTION: I am in a rental property. At the landing of the stairs, there is a large glass window with three panels. My 17 year old son lost his footing coming down the stairs and fell into the corner of the wall, which caused the glass to break and shards to come down onto his arm.  He now has 3 large lacerations and over 60 stitches after spending 6 hours in the ER yesterday.  The window in less than 18" above the ground and at the bottom of a steep stair case. My landlord is saying it's not code to have tempered glass there in California.  The total size of the glass panel is 44' by 33 ' and there are three panels on top of each other, creating a very tall amount of thin glass that is NOT tempered. Do I have any recourse with the landlord?  My son now has 3 large lacerations, one approximately 7 inches long on his under side of his forearm.  I am beyond frustrated. They actually told me if I wanted them to replace the glass with tempered, I had to pay for the difference!!!  Please help.

ANSWER: I have two pages of code on tempered glass from the latest California building code. I was sending you all of it, but it got rejected as being too long for this site. I will give you what seem to be the most important sections here. If you want both pages, I will be glad to send them to you by email. Just email me at

I hope this is helpful.

2406.1 Human impact loads. Individual glazed areas, including glass mirrors, in hazardous locations as defined in Section 2406.4 shall comply with Sections 2406.1.1 through 2406.1.4.

2406.4 Hazardous locations. The locations specified in Sections 2406.4.1 through 2406.4.7 shall be considered specific hazardous locations requiring safety glazing materials.

2406.4.3 Glazing in windows. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel that meets all of the following conditions shall be considered a hazardous location:
1. The exposed area of an individual pane is greater than 9 square feet (0.84 m2);
2. The bottom edge of the glazing is less than 18 inches (457 mm) above the floor;
3. The top edge of the glazing is greater than 36 inches (914 mm) above the floor; and
4. One or more walking surface(s) are within 36 inches (914 mm), measured horizontally and in a straight line, of the plane of the glazing.

2406.4.6 Glazing adjacent to stairs and ramps. Glazing where the bottom exposed edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the plane of the adjacent walking surface of stairways, landings between flights of stairs, and ramps shall be considered a hazardous location.

2406.4.7 Glazing adjacent to the bottom stair landing. Glazing adjacent to the landing at the bottom of a stairway where the glazing is less than 36 inches (914 mm) above the landing and within 60 inches (1524 mm) horizontally of the bottom tread shall be considered a hazardous location.

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QUESTION: So the bottom step just before the landing is 36" from the frame of the window pane with the glass sitting inside of the pane approximately 4 inches.  The glass was not tempered and simply bumping it is what caused the shards to come down and cut open my sons arm.  The glass starts 15 inches from the floor and raises up in 3 panels that are all 44" wide by 34" tall.  The glass repair man said they were not put in "to code".  Now if this was "code" from the time the house was built, does the landlord have a due diligence to place tempered glass in this spot in order to rent the property out?  The glass is at middle turn of a staircase going downstairs from all the bedrooms.  
Do I have recourse to have my landlord pay my medical bills at least?

I would think your window qualifies as a "hazardous location" on several counts. I can't answer, obviously, if you can get your landlord to pay your medical bills, but I would contact your landlord's insurance company. I would state all these facts, and the statement of the glass repair people that the window as not "to code." I would submit the doctor's bills. If you give the hint that you are prepared to get an attorney to press your case, you might well find that the insurance company will want to settle this.

How much were the medical bills? You might also want to try small claims court, if they fall under the amount that small claims will cover. It is normally several thousand dollars.

Another tack is to tell the landlord that you are going to report it to the code department of your city. They might come out to inspect it, and set the landlord straight, and make him fix the problem.

Of course you can also hire an attorney, and have that attorney write a letter. For several hundred dollars, you might get your medical bills paid, and a correct new window.

Sharon Toji

Building Codes and Inspections

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Sharon Toji


I have special expertise in the subject of accessibility codes and guidelines (ADA), and most specifically in the field of signage. If you have a question that is not about the ADA or about signs, I suggest you try the following excellent site: Naffa International BCDG (Building Code Discussion Group). The website address is You do have to register, but it's free. You will find discussions here on all kinds of Building Code Q & A topics. You go to the forum that sounds as if it's close to your topic, check out some of the posts and see if it sounds like a fit. Then pose your question. With luck, you may get some really good answers. You can email some of the experts individually by clicking on the headings of their posts. When you ask a question, of me, or of someone on the above site, tell them your state, and maybe your city if it's a large city. That is crucial for answering code questions. Sharon Toji


I am a voting delegate to the American National Standards Institute that writes accessiblity standards used by the International Building Code and are the basis for the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). I am also a member of the Access Advisory Committee to the California State Building Standards Commission, among other positions.

Signs and the ADA (a manual I have written that is used across the country), and articles in many trade journals.

BA, Reed College Graduate work, University of Munich (Germany) and University of California, Irvine

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