Investigations

Township changes policy following abc27 investigation into dryer vent installations

MECHANICSBURG, Pa (WHTM) - Abc27 has received new information in our investigation  that revealed Charter Homes did not follow building code when installing second floor dryer vents in the Walden Community in Cumberland County. 

The vents end at the soffit in the attic instead of outside which is required by the 2009 IRC Code, Section M1502.3.

Abc27 filed a right to know request for emails sent or received from some Silver Spring Township employees regarding Charter Homes, Walden, and dryer vents. 

Those emails revealed that after abc27 contacted Silver Spring Township about its dryer vent code the Building Codes Department Manager, Jason McConnell, emailed a letter addressed to members of the board discussing the issue. It reveals the township advised a resident who reached out to them that Charter Homes did not properly install his second story dryer vent. The resident sent pictures to Silver Spring Township which show his dryer vent was sitting on top of the solid part of the soffit in his attic and was surrounded by lint. 

According to the letter, Charter Homes told the resident that "back in 2013 when those townhouses were built it was not code and it was ok to stop the hose on the inside of the soffit". McConnell writes in the letter to the Board of Supervisors the "contractor was mistaken on that part".

Silver Spring Township also contacted ICC, LANCODE and the Building & Fire Code Academy for further clarification. According to McConnell they agreed the code was in effect and the dryer vent being used was also not up to code. McConnell also asked if Silver Spring Township "would be considered liable for these (dryer vents) being approved over the years". They were advised "not likely" considering the code interpretation and it was not done maliciously.

"It was to determine whether the township was liable to take some corrective action under the code, not financially liable," said Theresa Eberly, Silver Spring Township Manager. "Questions of financial and legal liability are sent to the township solicitor.  In this case, it was an inquiry about what, if any, corrective action should be taken according to the code, which went to third-party code authorities, not the solicitor."

In its original statement to abc27 Silver Spring Township did not share this information. Only stating an internal inquiry revealed the township inspectors used appropriate judgement at the time of the inspections. That statement was sent 25 days after McConnell's letter was emailed to the board.

The right to know request also included a letter that was sent to McConnell from Charter Homes after abc27 aired a story.

"Several other homeowners have asked us to inspect their homes," writes Tom Prince, Vice President, Homebuilding Operations, Charter Homes. "We are handling every request in this manner regardless of when the home was completed, whether or not the homeowner is the first owner, and even though some of the homes were built nearly ten years ago."

Prince also references abc27's first report on this matter stating "the new report correctly stated that we are taking care of the issue".

Not everyone is convinced. Abc27 also obtained a voice mail through our right to know request. In it, an upset Walden resident said "What I need from the township is when Charter says that this has been remediated I want someone to come out from the township, take a look at the ventilation in my townhome and assure me that its up to code, because i don't trust Charter".

Silver Spring Township has put new procedures in place to inspect dryer vents:
-a note with proper listed code has been added to every residential plan review letter that is generated for builders
-inspectors continue to check dryer vent piping run during framing inspection and verify where it will exit the home
-inspectors are confirming with builders the type of vent being used on the outside and checking during final inspection
-each builder/contractor must get a signed letter from either their HVAC or Siding Installer confirming the dryer vent was run outside with approved termination

Homeowners with concerns can contact Charter Homes at homecare@charterhomes.com.


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