Selling A House With A Code Violation In WI

Dealing with code violations, especially when trying to sell your Wisconsin property, can be a hassle. Although potential buyers may fall in love with other aspects of your home, like the gorgeous hardwood floors or original crown molding, code violations may turn buyers away depending on how severe the violations are. But the good news is that you do have options to sell your Wisconsin home. So before you get too discouraged, let’s figure out what type of code violation you’re dealing with and what selling options you have. We’ll cover some helpful information when it comes to selling a house with code violations so that way you can have a successful home sale!

How To Sell A House With A Code Violation

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Common Code Violations

Before covering some common code violations, it’s important to know what a code violation is precisely. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a code violation as “an act of breaking (= not obeying) a code (= set of rules) that applies to a particular area of activity, sport, etc.” Each state has its own set of codes that should be followed for that area, including building codes. In Wisconsin, each county has its own specific codes that its residents should abide by. 

You may be surprised to find out what some common code violations are for your area. Milwaukee county follows the State of Wisconsin Building Code for Residential and Commercial Structures. Their codes include electric, plumbing, sanitation, and swimming pool regulations, just to name a few. Below are the most common code violations in Wisconsin.

Common Code Violation: Electrical

Electrical safety is a big deal, so the number one thing you should tackle first is checking that nothing is crowding your service panel. If you were to fail to remove nearby objects, it could result in hazardous conditions and significant repercussions. Ensure all circuits in the panel are clearly labeled; that way, a particular circuit can be easily located in an emergency or for servicing needs. Also, there needs to be a main disconnect that allows you to shut down the house’s electrical system quickly in the case of a crisis.

Fine Homebuilding has a list of the nine most common code violations and wiring mistakes

This list should help you understand what to focus on in your property.

  1. Don’t mix line-voltage and low-voltage wires.
  2. Make sure to protect wiring from nails and screws.
  3. Utilize a splice box when installing a new fixture to the old wire.
  4. Do not use wire runs as a clothesline. 
  5. Do not overcrowd holes with too many wires.
  6. Make sure recessed lights aren’t fire hazards. 
  7. Don’t insert too many wires into a switch or outlet box. 
  8. Do not disable a smoke detector with bad placement.
  9. Don’t bury splice boxes because it’s dangerous.

Also, make sure to attend to electrical outlets, especially if you have kids or pets. Tamper-resistant outlets are designed to stop a child from inserting an object, such as a fork or paperclip, and keeps pets from messing with them.

Common Code Violations: Handrails Not Installed on All Staircases

Crazy, but are you aware that most people are hurt on the stairs more often than anywhere else in the home? Which explains why handrails are important to the safety of your family. You may not know, but handrails must be installed on every single staircase inside and outside of the house.

When it comes to railings in stair codes, the specifications refer to the safety barrier along with steps or stairs. A handrail is defined as a horizontal or sloping rail intended for grasping by the hand for support or guidance, as opposed to an open staircase that would require a stair rail and guardrail. The good news, though, this common code violation can be fixed pretty quickly and affordably. 

Common Code Violation: Missing & Broken Smoke Alarms

Every bedroom in the house must have a hard-wired smoke alarm in the room and in the hallway outside of all sleeping areas. But not only do you need to make sure your smoke alarms are installed correctly but also that they’re working correctly. A smoke alarm is going to be your number one defense against a fire.

Not to mention, research has shown that interconnected smoke alarms are known to increase safety. Installing smoke alarms is relatively simple and of course, replacing batteries is pretty easy and affordable. 

Common Code Violation: Improper Bathroom Ventilation

Commonly seen in older homes are bathroom fans that vent air and moisture into the attic- which isn’t safe. Adequate ventilation requires you to make sure all ventilation coming from the bathroom is directed outside the home.

Failing to do so will put your home at high risk for unpleasant side effects. When humid air is pumped into your attic, it can cause mold and rot. So make sure to confirm the fan is venting the air using a 4″ diameter ventilation pipe. Typically, inexpensive bath fans are known to have 3″ fittings. If you find this to be the issue, insert a converter pipe to repair the problem.

Common Code Violation: Dangerous Windows

Many prospective buyers and homeowners look at windows as a bonus but fail to consider the type of glass, their condition, and location of windows. So the first order of business should be for you to replace windows near stairs and in bathrooms with tempered or safety-glazed glass. Furthermore, building codes require it in new properties with windows that are near stairs and doorways, in showers, basically anywhere someone could slip and fall into the glass. Also, experts recommend that single-pane windows be traded in for double-pane versions.

Below are a few additional tips and questions to keep in mind.

  • Is the glazing double or triple glazed to provide insulation and to resist impact? 
  • Do the frames have wind load labels?
  • Tempered or safety glass must have a manufacturer’s designation, defining the type of glass and the safety glazing standard with which it complies.
  • Are there visible fasteners to assure you they’re securely installed? 
  • The designation must be visible at the final installation and be acid etched (i.e., applied so that it cannot be removed without being destroyed).

Common Code Violation: Water Heater

You may not know this, but your water heater should have a small expansion tank. This small extra tank relieves the pressure if your water gets too hot and expands. So, you will need to make sure your water heater has one. Without an expansion tank, the pressure can build up and cause the tank to explode, which you definitely don’t want happening!

Also, adequate ventilation and a properly working temperature/pressure relief valve (T&P) are vital for a water heater to work correctly. Something to keep in mind is the average lifespans of both electric and gas water heaters are eight to thirteen years. Just make sure to schedule professional maintenance checkups and purchase new equipment as necessary. 

Other Common Code Violations

You may be surprised to discover code violations for roofing, siding, tree branches, trash, fencing, doors, plumbing, porches, and balconies, but there are building codes for those items too. Keeping a home well maintained and free of code violations can be a process which could be why you’re thinking about selling your Wisconsin home. You may want to ask yourself some questions before selling your home with code violations like what your selling strategy should be.

Selling a House With a Code Violation

The good news is that you can sell a house with a code violation. You will just need to decide how you would like to go about doing that. There are a few ways you can handle this particular situation; fix the issues, offer a deal with the buyer, or sell your house as-is. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but at least it can get you out of a house with code violations. Let’s take a look at each selling option; that way, you can decide which selling strategy is best for you. 

Fix The Issue

Once you get notified what the code violations are, find out what is involved with fixing them. Is it something you can do yourself? One code violation could be that there is trash and debris in the yard, which could be something you could clean yourself. If it has to do with rotting wood on the side of the house or windows, that may be something you need a handyman to fix. 

In general, homeowners should make repairs before selling. Not only is it helpful to sell your home, but buyers request home inspections before closing and usually make repairs contingent upon buying your house.

→ Selling a house that needs work? Click here to find out what your next steps should be.

Hiring a home inspector will help you determine what issues are going on within your home and determine if things aren’t up to code. 

If you do consider fixing all the issues before selling your home, it would be a good idea to figure out how much it would cost. Bringing things up to code and home improvements can be expensive. Also, depending on the extent of the work needed, the repairs can be time-consuming as well. So figuring out what all needs to be done would be helpful in deciding how you would like to sell your house with code violations in Wisconsin. If fixing the issues will be extremely costly and time-consuming, you might want to look at other selling options.

Something else to keep in mind when making improvements to your home is that some work may require you to have a permit. This could have been the reason for the code violation in the first place. If the work was done unpermitted, it could mean it wasn’t done up to code standards. 

Say you did a kitchen remodel in hopes of selling your home for a better price, and your contractor didn’t pull a permit for him/her to rewire the kitchen that could cause you to have a building code violation. Ultimately, having unpermitted work done to your home is not a good idea and could set you up for legal issues down the road. Just make sure if you do end up making repairs and address all the code violations to get permits and have a licensed contractor do the work.

No matter what, just remember you will need to disclose the issues to the next homeowner. Wisconsin law requires you to fill out a real estate conditions report when selling a house in general. The seller answers a series of questions regarding various aspects of the property’s condition. So hiding any of these issues or code violations could have legal consequences.

Offer a Deal With The Buyer 

Another way you can sell your house with code violations is to offer a credit to the buyer or let the buyer pay for the repairs and lower your selling price. This is a helpful option if you’re not financially able to make repairs and if the code violations don’t present a health or safety threat to the buyer. However, you’ll need to be completely transparent with any issues and have the home inspected properly by a home inspector. Furthermore, to attract a potential buyer willing to assume the responsibility for those violations, you can count on having to reduce your asking price.

Unfortunately, though, most prospective buyers want to inherit a free and clear title and are not going to be interested in buying a property with code violations in Wisconsin—that means finding this willing buyer could be next to impossible.

However, there is another option: to sell your house for cash to a direct buyer as-is

a house with a code violation for sale as is

Sell Your House As Is

Selling your house with code violations to a cash home buyer is another selling option. Cash home buyers like Cream City Home Buyers purchase houses as-is, code violations, and all. 

This would save you the trouble of addressing the code violations and making repairs to the home. 

→ Learn how selling your house now in Milwaukee will save you money by clicking here.

Since they would be taking on the cost and responsibility of making the necessary improvements, you likely won’t get the full asking price. But, you will be able to sell your house quickly and avoid the hassle of dealing with these issues on your own. 

The good news is Cream City Home Buyers has the cash on hand to make you an offer for your home and close in a time frame that works for you. And since you would be selling directly to them, hiring a real estate agent or selling by owner, even listing the property, isn’t necessary. There are no realtor commissions to pay or service chargers that are commonly seen with iBuyer’s. Cream City Home Buyers would even pay your closing costs. 

When faced with this type of selling situation, working with a local home buyer like Cream City Home Buyer’s is a great option. 


When it comes to dealing with code violations, yes, they are a big deal and meant to hold people accountable; that being said, you do have options when it comes to selling your house with code violations. Just make sure to address any code violations that could affect your health in safety as well as others will you own the property. Also, don’t forget to disclose any known issues within the home to the next buyer. 

Besides that, don’t get too discouraged; there are still ways for you to sell your house with code violations; you will just need to decide which one is right for you!

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