Red Tagged: House or furnace, water heater, electric panel, etc. – Serious or Not ?

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If a home is “red tagged” it can refer to either the whole home or a portion of the home that has been determined to be unsafe and presents a danger or risk of injury.

This often occurs when there has been a fire that damaged part of the home and the fire department or local building official is concerned that a possible unsafe condition now exists. Other causes of homes getting “red tagged” include damage by a tornado or hurricane, a bad thunder storm or flooding, an earthquake, a sinkhole, or even a run-a-way car or truck running into the home. There have even been cases of large parts falling off of an airplane and damaging a home.

If someone started building a home without permits and proper engineering and there appears to be unsafe conditions, then the building department may stop construction and red tag the home.

If a home is red tagged, then it is deemed unsafe and uninhabitable. It cannot be lived in or occupied until the safety issue is corrected.

The Whole House, Part of The House or Only a Component or System May Be Red Tagged

Gas being red tagged

If a gas company technician comes to a home to check the meter, light a pilot lite, turn on the gas or respond to a call of a gas smell and they observe a problem with the gas line or an appliance (water heater, furnace, etc.) with an unsafe condition they may red tag the gas meter and shut it off or red tag the appliance.

Examples of causes for red tagging may include:

  • Leaking gas meter or gas line
  • A vandalized furnace in a foreclosed home
  • Damaged burners on a stove top
  • Badly corroded gas components or supply lines
  • Improper installation or use of flexible gas supply lines
  • Furnaces with badly damaged or cracked heat exchanger
  • Furnaces with a leaking or improperly installed flue

The majority of gas issues are inexpensive and easily fixed. One exception to this is if the furnace heat exchanger is cracked. The heat exchanger is a series of metal tubes that get very hot when the furnace is on and over the years the constant heating up and cooling off may result in a cracked tube. When this happens, poisonous carbon monoxide gases escape and may get circulated through the home. The American Gas Association recommends total replacement of the heat exchanger if its cracked.

After the repair has been done, a utility company technician will generally return to the house, check the repairs and reconnect the individual appliances or gas service to the home.

Electric – Red Tagged

Should a technician from the electric utility company, a city or county building inspector observe certain unsafe wiring, panels or installations, then they may red tag the panel, sub panel or the meter and shut off the electrical service. This can happen after a storm, earthquake or if work was done to the home that was not professional or correct and posses a safety hazard.

Removal of a “red tag”

Although the seriousness of a red tag should not be ignored, a wise buyer should check to see what needs to done to correct the issue. The cost may be very low for corrections like replacing a damaged flexible gas line or a loose flue vent for a water heater or furnace. If the tag is there because the home was hit by a big mudslide, flood, earthquake etc. then the cost to correct the issue may be expensive.

Bottom line

First, see why there is a red tag, then check the cost to correct it. You may be pleasantly surprised or you may decide to find another home.