Building Inspectors with No Authority

by Octapoo

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 20:55:00 UTC

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So I called the building inspector to see what if anything they're doing. Apparently the guy came by yesterday and no one noticed. Anyway, he's under the impression that he has no authority to do anything. Apparently, while you're supposed to get a building permit, there's not much in the way of consequences if you do not. I called the local office to ask their thoughts on that, and they too think that, if they don't catch someone in the act of building, then there's nothing they can do.

I'm left wondering what the fuck the point of building codes are then. I thought the purpose was to prevent the erection of unsafe structures since they're a danger to far more than just the person who is paying for them. They can injure renters, visitors, or future owners of the property, and a lot of the problems can only be observed during construction. So without building inspections there's nothing to prevent someone from building a death trap and then selling it to some unlucky home buyer.

...but apparently that's not what building inspectors are for. I can guess then that they only serve one purpose: If I were to somehow have enough money to buy a small plot of land, and built the tiniest shack on it in which to live, they'd totally be the ones to show up, inform me that I've violated building codes, and send in bulldozers to tear it down. If a landlord wants to build something that's unsafe, they can look the other way, but I'm sure they're not looking the other way when poor people just want to build what they can afford to live in.

I'm really dumbfounded by this. I talked with the inspector on the phone about what was done, and he didn't disagree with me at all that it wasn't done properly. He just disagreed that he was able to do anything about it.

There was no permit. It's not clear whether they even needed one. To some extent almost everyone I talked to seemed to think that he did need one since it's a deck that's 6 ft. above ground, but then the actual inspector I talked to today said that the county considers it to merely be maintenance.

That doesn't make any sense to me though. If it requires a permit when first done then it requires a permit to modify, right? Otherwise I could correctly install electrical wiring in a house, get it approved by the inspector, and then immediately remove expensive products to take home with me and replace them with cheap shit that will catch fire someday. In the same way, if they care that guardrails are sufficiently strong when the deck is built, then they should care when they're removed and replaced with new guardrails of a totally different design.

In any case, I typed up another PDF and sent it to the landlord. We'll see if it inspires any changes but I've already lost hope on that front.

So future options:

1. Maybe there's some other government agency to complain to? I heard a neighbor talk about one once but in searching the internet I couldn't figure out what it was. I guess I could go talk to that neighbor again but, IDK, I'm not much for talking to people.

2. We could just move. Seems likely to result in an increase in rent however. Around here, you don't get an increase in rent every year, so once you've lived somewhere for a while, there's a disincentive to ever move to a new place. However, I do have 10 years worth of rent receipts. I'd like to think that they'd give me some negotiating power, but my mother has a few years less in her place. Also there's been a lot of inflation recently so IDK what rents may be now.

3. We just make the necessary improvements ourselves. At the moment lumber is really expensive, but should the cost come down, simply paying for the improvements ourselves may be preferable to paying a higher rent over the long term. However, paying for improvements to a house you don't own is kind of a dumb thing to do, as there's no guarantee that you'll continue to live there long enough for them to pay off.

Just have to take some time to think about it and see what happens at this point I guess.


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