This “Windowless basement” violation is a complete, total racket, and has been for 30 years. I’ve left you a lengthy pm with additional details.
I doubt anyone would object to your posting your lengthy pm here, I'm real interested in this subject! The state seems to have no qualms about citations on long existing conditions in Greencarded buildings, like suddenly requiring handrails on basement hatch steps or exterior backyard lighting. If the city is getting into the game, that's going to be a hassle. I think I've had one fire inspection in 20 years.
Brewster, thanks for the kind invitation but I am sure you'll understand if I politely decline.
The correct approach is as I outlined – if a building or installation met code (was inspected and passed) at the time of construction / installation then that’s the end of it. The State, Fire Department, City can’t at some later point arbitrarily require you to meet the requirements of a newer Code version, just because it’s available - see 24 N.J.R. 739. You have to be doing rehab, or some work on the building, to trigger the application of new code requirements.
Nevertheless, I typically take a fairly pragmatic approach to simple “violations.” For less expensive, easy to “fix” things that make sense – handrails on stairs, easily installed lights and so on I’ll just do it, but I always look the inspector directly in the eye and cordially ask which edition of the UCC (NOT NJAC section) is he or she using? In my experience, that’s been sufficient to politely signal you know the game and put an end to the nonsense.
The windowless basement “violation” is a whole other matter…. The FD tried this on me a few years ago. There’s real money in it, sometimes even a building on the cheap. Sprinklers are expensive and can be destructive to install in an old building – even if only in the basement, and can require periodic inspections ($), testing (more $) and on and on. Moreover the City and Fire Department also want you to install a centrally monitored alarm as well. More on-going, subscription costs – every month, forever. Big bucks.
When they tried to make me do this a few years ago, I refused and went to Court. Sounds they are still at it, attempting to intimidate people into retrofitting basement sprinklers, or worse…? Long and short of it, the FD withdrew the violation – they knew they were wrong. My old building had been retro-fitted at the time to meet the requirements of the UFC when it was introduced (mid/late 80’s). Nothing had been done subsequently to the building to trigger the application of any newer Code edition that required sprinklers or a monitored alarm. If I had “rehabbed” the building, then yes, the requirements of the Code in effect when the “rehab” was undertaken would have to be met.
I finally had enough of the City and State's nonsense, and as you may recall - I posted here some time ago - when the reval became a done deal, I sold the building. And I'm not sorry about it at all.
Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to provide concise and accurate responses to the best of my knowledge.