The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Opt-In: Exempt Cities

Reference Number: MTAS-1177
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: November 10, 2016
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The goal of the legislation and the desire of the state entities charged with enforcing it are to encourage as many cities as possible to become exempt. Obtaining exempt status provides a city with the most local control of its own development and provides its residents with the highest level of protection and safety in new home construction, which helps maintain property values.

To be exempt under this law, a city must adopt and enforce minimum building codes. The specific pre-requisites for exemption are found in the state fire marshal’s rules and regulations, but the general requirements are:

State enforcement remains limited to state buildings, educational occupancies and any other occupancy requiring inspection for initial licensure if the local government has chosen to adopt and enforce building codes for construction of all buildings, for construction of all buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings, or for one- and two-family dwellings only; and:

  1. For one- and two-family dwellings, it has adopted the International Residential Code;
  2. For construction other than one- and two-family dwellings it has adopted a building construction safety code consisting of the International Building Code and either the International Fire Code or the Uniform Fire Code, if adopted on or after July 1, 2006; and
  3. The city is adequately enforcing its locally adopted building code and performing reviews of construction plans and specifications and inspections required by the state fire marshal. Requirements vary depending on the type of construction.

Furthermore, an exempt city’s building code edition for one- and two-family dwellings must be current within seven years of publication unless otherwise approved by the state fire marshal. A city that meets and adequately enforces the aforementioned standards retains local control and is exempt from statewide codes and enforcement.

According to these requirements, a city may choose to adopt and enforce codes for specific buildings, and state enforcement will apply where the city is not regulating and enforcing. Therefore, within the exempt city classification, there will be a further breakdown of groupings. They are:

  1. Cities that adopt and enforce codes for buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings. Here, the state will regulate residential construction with enforcement by deputy building inspectors.
  2. Cities that adopt and enforce codes for one- and two-family dwellings only. Here, the state will regulate buildings other than one- and two family dwellings.
  3. Cities that adopt and enforce codes for both one and two-family dwellings and other buildings. Here, the state will not regulate within the city’s jurisdiction except state buildings, educational facilities, etc.

     

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