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Condominium Balconies Rail Not To Building Code

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I own a condominium in a 20 unit building that is 14 years old. My association president is trying to levy a special assessment to replaced all the balconies railing. According to him our balconies rails are 38 inches in height, which is not in compliance with the Chicago building code. He is stating that if the city inspector finds this out, the penalties will be very severe. Is this true? Is it mandatory to replaced all this balconies railing to be in compliance?

asked in Condo Inspection by antonjg (120 points)
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1 Answer

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Hi Antonjg,
This will most likely depend on the latest approved legislations regulating such requirements. In general, updating a non-code compliant item to the latest locally adopted code is required when this particular item undergoes some type of remodeling. It also depends on the extent of that remodeling process and it varies between different building components. 
However, if safety is a concern (which would be in this case), especially in multi-family buildings, such code compliance updates might be enforced without giving the building owner any options. Chicago porches are perfect examples. The accidents that happened within the last few years triggered several litigations and inspections of porch / balcony structures in Chicago forcing their respective owners to often completely rebuild them... 
Unfortunately I don't know if this applies to your building and how are those particular balconies classified - railing height (42") is the same for porches and balconies. Also, each of the porch levels is pretty much a balcony connected with stairs to another balcony so the same "compliance update" might apply as well.
I'd say that the best source of information in this case would be the Chicago Building Department.
You can give them a call and ask in general about your concerns, not necessarily providing them with your building address...  
answered by darekrudy (21,730 points)
Thank you  for your quick response. You are very helpful.