What is the FHA rule for security bars?

I was asked recently by a real estate agent what the FHA rule for security bars was so I decided to share my answer with you in case you’re interested. Loans with FHA financing are more restrictive and can potentially cause problems with the appraisal which can delay the closing. I’m going to review the HUD guidelines for homes with security bars so that you will be prepared if you find yourself in this situation.

fha rule security bars

As I stated in a previous post, HUD guidelines are concerned with the Minimum Property Requirements of a property which include safety, soundness, and security. As crazy as it sounds security bars falls in the safety category rather than security. This is because they relate to the health and safety of the occupants. According to HUD handbook 4150.2:

Bedroom windows with security bars require a quick release mechanism for emergency egress. If not so equipped or inoperable, condition the appraisal on a “required repair”.

While the handbook mentions bedroom windows it is a good idea that any window that does not meet the HUD guideline be corrected, specifically those rooms where the only exterior access is through a window.  Most of the homes that I see with security bars do not have a quick release mechanism. They are bolted to the window frame and there is no way to quickly remove them in case of a fire or other emergency, which could result in a death. Security bars must also comply with local city fire codes so if you are unsure you may want to check with your local jurisdiction to see if they meet their guidelines.

In situations where windows have security bars, but the room has other exterior access such as a door, then they most likely will not have to be removed because occupants can get out of the house through the door. The concern with bedrooms is that the window is typically the only way to get out of the house so it is very important that this be corrected. During the appraisal inspection the appraiser will note if security bars are present and if they do not have the quick release mechanism then the appraisal will require this to be corrected, which can mean a couple of things including either replacing the bars with ones with a quick release mechanism or removing the bars. If the seller or buyer do not wish to replace the bars because of the inconvenience or expense then they can be removed altogether, which can be the easiest alternative. They can be removed before the home is listed for sale so it is not even an issue with the appraisal. I hope this clears the air about this common FHA requirement.

So what are your thoughts on security bars on homes with FHA/HUD financing? If you have any other appraisal concerns on FHA loans let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

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  1. Michelle Garey says

    I just had an appraisal done they want all removed even in a room that has an outside door and a bedroom with a quick release. I think the appraiser is going over board what do I do?

    • As long as there is adequate access to the outside such as the ones you describe you should be fine. I would call FHA and ask them so that you can present their answer to the appraiser and they can then remove the requirement. Their phone number is 1-800-Call FHA.

  2. Virginia Quiroga says

    My insurance carrier is requiring me to remove burglar or security bars or install the quick release mechanism on all 12 windows. Only 3 windows have doors that open. I would imagine this will be expensive. Harbor Freight and Home Depot were not able to provide info. Some Security or Alarm companies were not able to assist. Policy will cancel 3-24-2021. Stuck between rock and hard place. Do not want to remove bars since windows will not be protected from debris or hail in case of severe weather. What can I do?

    • FHA and HUD do not really allow for any variance from their guidelines. The only thing that might help the amount you have to pay to have this done is to consider that they only require one window or exit per room so if you have multiple windows you will only need to have the quick-release mechanism on one to allow for easy access to the exterior.

      • Hello, we have just had an appraisal done as part of a HUD reverse mortgage. The only thing holding us up is that the appraisal noted that we have interior bars on 2 downstairs bedrooms. They are the type that swing open making escape possible through half of the window. We presently have padlocks with the keys in them. Will removing the locks completely make them quick release compliant? We live just outside Albuquerque, NM.

        • To my knowledge, there is nothing that says that what you have would not be acceptable, however, to be sure you might want to call the HUD Home Ownership Center to make sure. I believe that since you live in New Mexico you are serviced by the Denver branch. There phone number is 1-800-Call FHA.

  3. Bianka Flores says

    Ive had a appraisal done for a FHA Loan
    In Az, only 1 bedroom window has the non opening bars, all other bars have been removed, will this be a repair that will delay closing?

    • There has to be at least one window or door per room that provides easy access to the exterior. If the only opening to the outside has a non-opening bar this would NOT be acceptable. It has to either be removed or be made to easily open to meet FHA guidelines. Hope this helps.

  4. Dan Hartke says

    I have a room that the Owner considers a “den” that has security bars on the window (no release). The “den” could easily be construed and used as a small bedroom, it has a closet.. The room has two (2) exits, one that is right off(contiguous), the front door and another on the other side of the room that has access/egress to a hallway to the other bedrooms and the guest bath. Fire Dept says their policy is “if a room has two (2) “man door” exits the room does not require a quick release on the bars. They use the “International Fire Code as their code. What say you as the FHA appraisal is coming up.

    • HUD’s main concern with security bars is that in the event of an emergency the occupants of the room would be able to get out of it to safety. If the doors have access to the exterior of the home then I would think that would be okay, however, if both doors lead to the interior I do not think that would work. If the areas of the home that the two doors lead to had a fire then they would do no good, however, if it had a window that could easily be opened then the occupants could escape.

      • So are you staying that the appraiser can request more than HUD requirements for security bars? It was explained to me that bedrooms are where one SLEEPS. That is why there are not alternative exits if found trapped. Other rooms in the house are NOT INTENDED for sleep and thus would have at minimal front and rear exit access options as the house is designed. I do not think that FHA intent was to allow others to require more than MPR.

        • The only time I believe that the appraiser would require more is when local building codes were more strict than HUD. Homes must meet local codes so that would supersede any HUD requirements.

  5. Linda Blue says

    What if there are keys for the window security bars that can let you open from the inside.

    • Linda, if there are keys or some type of quick release mechanism from inside it should be okay. The important thing is to be able to get out when you need to.

  6. David Cline says

    I inspected a property which had bars on one window of the bedroom, but none on the other window. I believe as long as there is one window with emergency exit, the bars on the other window do not have to be removed.

    • That is my understanding as well, David. As long as there is a door or window that operates and provides access to the exterior in case of a fire it is ok.

  7. Lupe Avolevan says

    I have a seller and he will be removing the security bars from the windows and leaving them off before the Appraisal. The questions is regarding security gates for the doors, do they have to be removed also?

    • If they are on the doors I would assume that they have a way to open them real easy to go out the door. If this is the case they do not have to be removed because your can still leave the house in case of an emergency like a fire.

  8. Deborah Miles says

    I have an appraiser that is requiring security bars be removed from all basement windows, the basement is not finished and the windows aren’t large enough to exit from if there were no bars. Should we be required to do this..

    • If there is another way to exit the basement to the outside besides the window then they should not be making the requirement to have them removed. It is usually only required if the window is the only exit.

  9. I concur about this being a safety issue if there are no release mechanisms installed. It can be a big danger for sure if there is no egress in a bedroom in case of a fire. That would be a terrible situation to be found in.

    • Unfortunately 90% of the homes I’ve seen that have security bars do not have a quick release mechanism and they are just bolted to the window frame, which is very dangerous.

  10. Bill Baughn says

    I remember one family that decided to remove the bars for my inspection. I got my pictures and as I was heading back to my car I could hear them putting them back up.

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