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Are Handrails Required For Stairs?

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Bill Featherstone

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Freshman Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
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Licensed Appraiser
State
Arkansas
I inspected a house with a deck that has 7 steps to the back yard ... there are no handrails. Also, the bottom rail of the deck railing is 6" from the deck. Common building codes generally require handrails for stairs with 4 or more steps and balusters that are spaced no more than 4" apart. Logic would tell you that the same 4" requirement should apply to the space between the bottom rail and the deck. The only mortgagee letter I can find addressing any of these items says that handrails to steps are no longer required.

Does anyone know some different with regard to current FHA guidelines? I'm of the opinion that both of these items are safety issues and that at a minimum I should mention them in my report with photos with an "as is" value and cost to cure. At a maximum, "subject to" and require that they be corrected.
 

incognito

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2005
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Florida
See HUD 2005-48:

Examples of minor property conditions that no longer require automatic repair for existing properties include, but are not limited to:
* Missing handrails
* Cracked or damaged exit doors that are otherwise operable
* Cracked window glass
* Defective paint surfaces in homes constructed post 1978


Definitely mention it, but don't require repair.
 

David Beasley

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2003
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
North Carolina
I agree with incognito, mention the issues and move along. FHA specifically says to overlook missing handrails, and the 4" spacing is a housing code issue, not speccifically an appraisal repair issue. But I would mention both issues, for personal liability reasons of course since they're both genuine safety concerns. Certainly if the buyers/owners have toddlers or small children, which is what the whole 4" spacing thing is all about.
 

Mike Garrett RAA

Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Colorado
I am doing a VA liquidation appraisal right now and there is no hand rail on the stairs leading to the fully finished basement level. I consider it a safety issue but since the appraisal will be "as-is", all I can do is call it to someone's attention.
 

Joyce Potts

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Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Florida
I would ask the lender first, but you're more than likely going to get an answer from someone who sense you're about to raise a red flag. FHA consider's missing handrails a 'cosmetic' deficiency unless it affects the health, safety, security and soundness of the dwelling. So it's your call. So why not err on the side of caution?

You may not require it to be done in the recommended repairs, but you might include it in your overall condition rating and certainly mention it.

If you're not familiar with FHA minimumum reuqirements, protocols, etc., cut and paste these links:

http://www.HUD.gov/groups/appraisers.cfm
http://www.HUD.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/ref/chap1.cfm

I have to go now - I'm beginning to sound like Mike Kennedy.
 

Michael Tipton

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Florida
Navigating stairs without a handrail is a safety issue for me due to a physical condition. I would include it in the condition of the subject and note the potential safety issue. Then the burden is on the lender to make an underwriting decision.
 

Bill Featherstone

Thread Starter
Freshman Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Arkansas
It just bothers me that, .

as appraisers, we may be the only party involved in a real estate transaction that actually does something to prevent someone from getting hurt. If we don't require that a safety issue is fixed, someone else may not.

I appreciate the responses given here and certainly respect the consensus of opinion of those with more experienced than I. And, I would agree that in principle that it appears that our job is merely to report what we see in the field and to let someone else make the call on things we point out. However, if someone were to get hurt as a result of a safety issue that was not required to be fixed by the lender/underwriter, even though I brought it to their attention, that would weigh pretty heavy on my mind. Of course, there is always the concern about being among all those that could possibly be "shotgun" sued, too.
 
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Craig Farr

Junior Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2004
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Arizona
What about rough-sawn wooden handrails on exterior deck's stairs? I've seen those so full of potential splinters that I can't imagine anybody would ever use them. But they are common in this market.
 

incognito

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2005
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Florida
Regardless what your conscious may want you to do, this is a SCOPE issue. You accepted an FHA assignment. FHA says DO NOT call for repair if there are missing handrails. If you don't like that, don't accept the assignment...
Mention it, thoroughly. Explain how horribly dangerous it is. But DON'T call for mandatory repair.
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Florida
We closed on a house in Sept. No hand rails or safety rails around the high front porch or rear deck. Bank did not care but insurance company does. Recieved a note from my insurance agent that I have 3 weeks to fix the safety issues or be dropped.
 
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