Vacant Building - Maintenance

The City of Wheaton has adopted codes that require building owners to maintain residential and commercial properties. While this guideline primarily applies to vacant buildings, many of the items also apply to occupied buildings. Applicable codes include the Wheaton City Code, International Property Maintenance Codes and International Fire Code 2018 Edition. These codes apply to the building as well as the associated surrounding property.

Vacant buildings, while not occupied on a regular basis, are visited by property owners, prospective owners, renters, realtors, appraisers, maintenance personnel and wildlife. Buildings and associated property should be checked on a regular basis and maintained as necessary. The list of building systems and components to be maintained include, but are not limited to the following:

Commercial & Residential Buildings/Properties

  1. Secure all Openings: All openings within a building such as doors, windows, overhead doors, equipment openings and similar shall be secured to prevent entry by unauthorized individuals. Doors should not be secured in such a manner that would prevent someone from exiting the building.
  2. Exits: Exits shall be kept clear of any obstruction on both the inside and outside. During the winter months, snow or ice may need to be removed so that the exit(s) are not obstructed. Similarly, overgrown landscaping may need to be trimmed back.
  3. Removal of Combustibles: Remove all accumulation of debris, rubbish, waste, combustible materials, combustible waste, flammable waste, or hazardous material. The Closure Plan is specified in the International Fire Code 2018 Edition, Section 311.
  4. Address Posted: Building numbers are required to be easily seen from the City right-of-way and should not be obstructed by trees or bushes to facilitate prompt response by emergency personnel.
  5. Grass & Weeds: Grass is required to be maintained less than 8 inches in height.
  6. City Water Meter: The City supplied water meter should be removed if there are freezing temperatures inside the building. Please call the Water Division at 630-260-2090 to have it removed.
  7. Domestic Water Supply Domestic water may become contaminated or stagnant if not used for an extended period of time. Thorough flushing of the plumbing system is advised. If the heat is shut off or turned down, the domestic plumbing system should be drained of water.
  8. Plumbing Drains: Plumbing systems should be kept operable, where feasible, in order to ensure that the P-trap water seals are filled with water to prevent sewer gasses from entering the building. The P-trap water seals are found in toilet drains, floor drains, tub and shower drains and similar plumbing fixtures. If the heat is shut-off or turned down, the plumbing drain system and water tanks should be drained of water and the drain system filled with a non-freezing non-toxic solution.
  9. Roof Drains and Gutters: Roof drains on buildings should be kept clear of any obstructions to prevent blockage and flooding.
  10. Sump Pumps: Sump pumps should be maintained in an operable condition.
  11. Interior Moisture Control: An excess amount of water vapor may cause excess mold to grow, ventilation or dehumidification may be warranted.
  12. Lighting: When a building is temporarily occupied lighting shall be provided along the path of egress.
  13. Electrical: Electrical systems should be free of any open electric boxes or exposed conductors. Electrical circuit or fuse panels should have covers in place and clearly labeled.
  14. Gas: All gas lines to appliances that have been removed should be capped.
  15. Handrails & Guardrails: Maintain existing handrails and guardrails at stairs and platforms as originally installed.
  16. Notify Insurance Carrier: Your insurance carrier may have additional requirements when a building or space becomes vacant.

Commercial Buildings/Properties

  1. Fire Alarm & Sprinkler: Fire alarm, sprinkler, and standpipe systems shall be maintained in operable condition at all times.
    • Exceptions (as approved by the Director of Building and Code):
    • When the premises have been cleared of all combustible materials and debris and, in the opinion of the fire code official, the type of construction, fire separation distance and security of the premises does not create a fire hazard. *See Fire Alarm disconnection in vacant commercial buildings.
    • When a building will not be heated and fire protection systems will be exposed to freezing temperatures, the fire alarm and sprinkler systems are permitted to be placed out of service and standpipes are permitted to be maintained as dry systems (without an automatic water supply), provided the building has no contents or storage, and windows, doors, and other openings are secured to prohibit entry to unauthorized persons. (IFC 2018 Edition, 311.2.2 Fire Protection) *See Fire Alarm disconnection in vacant commercial buildings.
  2. Exit Signs: Exit signs shall be lit.
  3. Lock Box: City recommends that a lockbox on the exterior of the building be accessible only to the Police and Fire Department for emergency calls.
  4. Parking Lot Drains: Parking lot drains and storm sewer inlets should be kept clear of any obstructions to prevent flooding.
  5. Signage: Signage from previous tenants is required to be removed from buildings as it is considered to be off-site advertising and is not allowed. Advertising signage larger than six square feet requires City approval and a permit. No attention-getting devices are allowed.
  6. Emergency Contact Information: An Emergency Contact Information form should be filled out and forwarded to the Police Department whenever there is a change in emergency contacts.

Revised 3/5/2020