Building code violations are generally civil court actions. You sign a
contract with the state when you get a building permit that allows
them to inspect. You also give the state the right to enforce the
If you do not have a permit it is actually another law that comes into
effect and in a lot of places you will find a different group of
people are enforcing it. Those are usually the same guys who enforce
zoning law, grass to tall, junk cars in the yard, farm animals, set
backs, non conformoing structures etc.
BTW the right you do have until you sign it away with a permit is your
4th amendment right. You can refuse entry unless they have a warrant.
The problem with that is a civil court judge is a lot more likely to
issue one on shaky grounds since he only deals with the "preponderance
of evidence" all day instead of "without a doubt" like they do in
criminal court. Think OJ.
Of course anything they can see from public property, a willing
neighbor's property, a helicopter or a satellite is fair game. These
"code enforcement" inspectors generally work off complaints from a
pissed off neighbor.
Most inspectors are reasonable people unless you live in one of those
mobbed up northern cities where they expect envelopes full of cash..
The certifications, licences and uniform building codes have gone a
long way to stop the patronage and nepotism that used to permieate
building departments so it isn't going to be the mayors idiot nephew
as a general rule. Of course YMMV
Bear in mind a lot of communities use the building department for
"growth management". They don't want it to be easy to build. That is a
political decision, not a building department one. You fix that at
That also varies from place to place. In San Francisco the cities
paramedics ware the seven pointed stars that are reserved by California
law to peace officers and they do carry handcuffs. In Maryland the
states fire marshals are fully sworn law enforcement officers. They're
uniformed and carry complete police equipment at all times. They
enforce the fire and building codes in rural areas of the state with no
local government. The only way to fully answer the question is to ask
the local government officials who have to swear that individual in for
her/him to exorcise police powers.
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