Egress and Fire Escapes and Stairs, oh my!

3 Replies

I'm very excited to have closed on my second MA investment property today. It's a doosie of a fixer-upper and I'm a long distance investor so I may be about to go through trial by fire but I hope it makes me stronger. My main concern here is with the existing second egress upstairs (porch leading to stairway), which is structurally unsound and must be taken down. I have heard that now in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 4-unit buildings are treated more or less like 5+ when it comes to building codes, meaning that I must hire a GC and architect to draw up plans for this minor renovation. I have also been told that I need covered stairs for the egress and possibly a second landing (sounds bizarre for a regular second story height). I have been quoted an ungodly sum to do this work and I really would like some insight into what the codes are and what I "really have to" do. I can't find any ready info on this and I wasn't able to gain any insight from trying to peruse the MA Building Code.


Another problem is the second apartment upstairs, which is non-conforming with only 1 egress (seller thought it was "grandfathered in" and never bothered to make it conform to code). My plan is to try to get the tenant out of there until I can figure out what to do, but I'm interested to know what the exact problem is. Can a tenant technically live in a 1-egress apt legally for any length of time? Am I subject to fines for just letting him continue to live there, and am I obligated to evict him immediately? Or even better... pay for him to live elsewhere while the necessary changes are made? (C'mon, this is MA so it's believable.) Again, any insight would be most greatly appreciated and, of course, upvoted.


Is the structure of the one to be replaced repairable? often times with these porches some lag bolts and a few new posts and footings can really get them back into shape and then paint everything when you're done this would keep your grandfather then. If you're taking that route and you have not already involved your local town do not involve them. As far as the unit with only one exit if there is a hallway running next to it any place you can cut another exit even if it both exits out the same stairwell. again do not involve your local town for this either they will see it and not have issue with it but if you ask for permission you're in for a world of hurt.

@Thomas Hickey thanks! You're sure it's ok if they exit out the same stairwell? I'm going to look into whether the layout will allow for that. Also only got 1 opinion on the porches and I plan to get another contractor or two to look at it and see if it can't be reinforced.

I know the two egresses and one stairwell used to be legal I'm sure if you put it there and whatever work you did didn't have date codes on it they wouldn't really notice. I'm sure somebody will chime in next and say all my advice is terrible LOL but let them pay the six figures to do it the way the town would want it.

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