In a recent decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a city cannot enact policies that are contrary to the Minnesota State Building Code.

The City of Saint Paul enacted a “policy” that all replacement egress windows needed to be of a minimum size. The State Building Code, however, has an exception that allows a homeowner or builder to install the manufacturer’s largest replacement that fits into the existing rough opening. The City’s policy effectively overruled the State Building Code.

The Builders Association of Minnesota brought suit against the City asserting that under state law, a city may not adopt any regulation that is contrary to the State Building Code. Among other arguments, the City argued that its “policy” did not violate a Minnesota Statute that only prohibited municipalities from enacting “ordinances” or “development agreements” that are different from any provision of the State Building Code. The trial court agreed with the City and dismissed the Builders Association’s claim.

The Builders Association appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In a decision released on July 23, 2012, the Court of Appeals affirmed that cities cannot enact any regulations that differ from the State Building Code, regardless of what the City calls the regulations. The decision is important to the construction industry because the decision reaffirms that the State Building Code trumps any contrary regulations.