QDEAR BARRY: Is it required that residential smoke detectors be hard-wired and networked together throughout a home? If so, when did these standards take effect? -- Larry

ADEAR LARRY: Smoke alarms in homes must be hard-wired to the electrical system. This requirement was introduced in the 1979 Uniform Building Code. In 1991, the code was amended to include battery backup to ensure that alarms would operate if power failed during a fire.

Networking, which is the connection of all alarms within a home, was introduced as a requirement in the 2000 building code. The purpose was to ensure that smoke at one end of a home would activate all alarms. However, not all municipalities adopt code changes immediately or simultaneously. To determine when these codes became law in your area, consult your local building department.

DEAR BARRY: How important is it for the buyer to be present for the home inspection? We are buying a home in another state. Attendance at the inspection may be difficult for us, and our agent says it's not important that we be there. Are there any real advantages in attending the inspection?

-- Seva

DEAR SEVA: Attending your home inspection is essential to fully understand the condition of the home you are buying. It is the only opportunity you will have to take your time examining the property rather than simply walking through.

More important, the value of the inspection is greater when the inspector can personally review the findings with you, show you the problems, explain them and then answer your questions. Unfortunately, distance can sometimes prevent you from attending. But when it is possible to attend, don't let anyone, not even your agent, persuade you to forgo this process.

DEAR BARRY: One of your columns discussed who would be liable for failure to disclose a building addition made without a permit, discovered by the buyer after closing escrow. You evaluated the positions of the seller and the home inspector, but you never mentioned the title insurance company. Wouldn't it be responsible for related losses, and shouldn't a title search reveal the lack of a building permit? -- Quentin

DEAR QUENTIN: Title reports do not include disclosures of property defects or determinations of permits for various stages of construction. Title insurance companies are concerned only with issues that could adversely affect clear, uncontested ownership and unrestricted use of a property.

Such issues include deeds of trust securing loans, liens of various kinds, use easements, rights of way, use restrictions and other related circumstances that could reduce a property's value and use. There is no way a title search would reveal such an addition because the very circumstance of its being without a permit means there is no paper trail.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

Distributed by Access Media Group