Skip to main content

Original Author: Hemsley, Sid
Date of Material: 09/11/1996

Building permits
Code enforcement
Code enforcement--Building inspection

Code Enforcement on Buildings Partially Within City

Reviewed Date: 05/04/2021
Where a building is located partially in the city and partially in the county, does the city's building permit and inspection system apply to the entire building?

September 11, 1996

You have the following question: Where a building is located partially in the city and partially in the county, does the city's building permit and inspection system apply to the entire building? While I can find no law anywhere in the United States specifically on that question, in my opinion, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

It is clear that where a state statute gives municipalities jurisdiction over property outside their boundaries they are entitled to pass regulations related to that property. However, there is no express legislation permitting municipalities to apply their building permit and inspection systems to property outside their boundaries.

But the inquiry does not stop there. Municipalities have been given the authority to adopt various technical codes, including building codes. [Tennessee Code Annotated, section 6-54-301 et seq.] Your city has adopted the 1994 Standard Building Code, and other technical utility codes. Section 1-1.3.1 of the 1994 Standard Building Code provides that:

This code is hereby declared to be remedial and shall be construed to secure the beneficial interests and purposes thereof, which are public safety, health, and general welfare through structural strength, stability, sanitation, adequate light and ventilation, and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment including alteration, repair, removal, demolition, use and occupancy of buildings, structures, or premises, and by regulating the installation and maintenance of all electrical, gas, mechanical and plumbing systems, which may be referred to as service systems. [Emphasis is mine.]

Remedial legislation is generally given a liberal interpretation in favor of the policy the regulation attempts to achieve. In addition, the Building Code is geared towards the regulation of various service systems. For those reasons alone, I find it difficult to believe that a court would restrict that code to only the part/s of the system/s in the part of the building within the boundaries of the city. Such a narrow interpretation of the building code would defeat the policy of that law permitting municipalities to adopt building and other technical codes, which is the safety, well-being and convenience of the residents of your city.

The 1994 Building Code also speaks of its application to the "building." For example, Section 101.4.2 says, "The provisions of the Standard Building Code shall apply to the construction, alteration, repair, equipment, use and occupancy, location, maintenance, removal and demolition, of every building or structure or any appurtenances connected or attached to such buildings or structures." [Emphasis is mine.] To argue that the Building Code applies only to a part of the building--in this case only the part within the city--is to advocate a very narrow definition of the word "building" and a ridiculous result.

It was held in Quinton v. Edison Park Development Corporation, 285 A.2d 5 (1971) that the open space requirements of a zoning ordinance apply outside the boundaries of the municipality, even though the ordinance was silent on that issue, principally on policy grounds:

Our cases have long recognized the duty of municipal officials to look beyond municipal lines in the discharge of their zoning responsibilities....It must be borne in mind that there could be no rational basis for denying to the adjacent Woodbridge residents the landscaped buffer protection afforded to the Edison residents. The noises from the shopping center, the lights from the store windows, the lights in the parking areas, and the fumes from the cars, along with the other disturbances, will have as much of an adverse effect on the nearby Woodbridge residents as they will on the nearby Edison residents. If a buffer strip is reasonably required for the protection of the Edison residents it is reasonably required for the protection of the Woodbridge residents who justly claim equal treatment.

Similar policy issues are involved in the question of whether the building and inspection procedures of your city apply to a house partially inside the city. The residents of your city have an intense interest in the safe construction of a building that straddles the city-county boundaries. In fact, undetected construction problems in the portion of the building in the county could be an immediate threat to security of the portion inside the city, and to the security of anyone who happened to be occupying that portion. Your city has an intense interest--indeed a duty--to provide them the same protection that it provides all its other citizens.

The Tennessee courts have also looked to both statutory and policy reasons to support the application of land use regulations outside the boundaries of local governments. In Y&M. v. Beer Commission or Board of Johnson County, 679 S.W.2d 446 (1984), Johnson County, Tennessee, adopted an ordinance prohibiting beer establishments within 2,000 feet of a church. That ordinance applied to a church located in North Carolina, held the Court. With respect to the statutory reasons, the Court pointed out that nothing in the state statute establishing beer distance regulations suggested that the distance regulations were not to apply outside the state. With respect to the policy reasons, the Court said:

Moreover, we are satisfied the same policy considerations which motivated the legislature to prohibit the location of an outlet for the sale of beer within 2,000 feet of a church located in Tennessee applies equally with respect to a church within that distance located outside Tennessee.

A similar result was reached in Santini v. Zoning Board of Appeal, 179 A.2d 621 (Conn. 1962).

I am confident that a Tennessee court confronted with your question would apply the city's building permit and inspection regulations to the entire building in question.


Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant