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I live in Santa Clarita and have a neighbor whose property is in pack rat condition. In the garage, you can’t even see the back of the garage, there is only a narrow pathway.

I’ve also noticed that the water heater is also obstructed with packages and boxes, so much so that you can only see the very top of the pipes, up high.

Could this be deemed as a dangerous condition due to gas, and is this something that could affect myself, living next door?

-Rita J.


Absolutely, this is a tragedy waiting to happen if this is a gas water heater. That water heater without a doubt needs clearance around it for air circulation, to prevent materials from combustion.

The average required clearance on a gas water heater is 24 inches on the front and 4 inches on the back and sides, however the rule of thumb is to keep combustibles even further from this area.

Additionally, with a packrat situation such as this, if there were a gas leak then the “barricade” that all of this stuff creates could create a large accumulation of gas, and be deadly if it ignited.

Add to that idea, the additional fuel that is made up of all of the rest of the items, and this could be a raging fire in a short period of time.

Do everyone involved a favor and get the city involved.

The city of Santa Clarita is amazing and with one call – and you can call anonymously if you wish – you can have this situation taken care of.

I understand the sensitivity of it being your neighbor, but this is one of those times where safety needs to come first, and there are more involved than just this occupant, it could literally involve several homes if it became a big enough issue.

If you are in a homeowner’s association then you’ll need to start with your management company and they can begin the necessary process to get this back to a safe living situation for all involved. Good luck.


I live in Canyon Country within an HOA.

About 12 years ago I built a patio cover that has a walking deck with a rail all the way around it, and a circular wrought iron staircase leading to the yard.

I am very handy and know that this was all built to code, however it was not permitted.

I am in escrow now and the buyers want a permit on it or they will back out.

It’s been difficult to sell and I don’t want to lose this (deal). I know you’ve answered something like this some years ago, but I can’t remember what action I need to take.

Can you please give me your most efficient/best advice, please?

-Oscar V.


What you’ll do is begin by drawing a site plan of your property, meaning an aerial view of it and show where the deck is.

Gather photographs of as many angles that you can, and, if you have access to a drone this would be a perfect application for it to get an aerial shot of the deck and it’s relation on the property. It’s better to have too many photos/angels, than not enough.

Show the details of your work with attachments/mounting areas, so the inspector has a clear picture of how this was built.

Go to the city counter and present the situation, and, in a way plead for mercy; haha.

They’ll likely require you to dig up the footing for their view and they’ll absolutely check all of your connections to make sure that it is bolted and has Simson Straps where necessary.

They may ask you to pull some of it apart, but they’ll pretty much be able to tell you what they may want you to do, then you can prep it all and request inspection.

At that point, if they are merciful enough and you’ve complied with all of their requirements, you may be issued permits.

This is definitely a situation of eating humble pie when you are dealing with these folks, so make sure that you follow their direction to a “T,” and you’ll have the best chance at being issued your permits.

Good luck to you and I hope that others are learning from this, especially if you intend to sell at a later date. It’s easier in the beginning to get away with cutting corners, but ultimately doing it right in the beginning pays off.

It definitely takes more time for getting work inspected but, first, it ensures safety, and secondly, you will have all of your ducks in order at selling time and no delays with such issues.


I’m the Vice President on a Board of Directors here in Santa Clarita at a fairly large community.

We are looking to install handrails throughout the community and everyone has an opinion as to where handrails are necessary.

We unanimously trust your opinion so we are asking for your guidance on this please, so that we can be a more safe community yet not spend unnecessarily where they may not be needed.

What is the rule of thumb on this, and at more than one step it is necessary?

Thank you in advance, for your most helpful guidance. Your experience shows in all of the information you share and we all appreciate it very much.

– Robert S.

Robert S.,

The rule of thumb is that if there is more than one step, you need a handrail.

If it is literally only one step then a handrail is not required, but you’ll need to keep your community members in mind.

If you have a community that is comprised mostly of elderly folks, it would be in your association’s best interest to install handrails throughout in order to protect the liability due to the average elderly person not being as stable on their feet.

Legally however, only more than one step up requires a handrail. Good luck to you.

Robert Lamoureux has 38 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].

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