For people who have had to have inspections for permit work what are my
rights as a homeowner?
I'm having an inspector come out to examine some work I did recently in the
shop and am curious what my rights are as a citizen. Does the inspector
have the right to roam freely about my house looking for problems and
mistakes or is he/she constrained to just the task at hand?
The electrician who did the work made it sound like the inspector could
pretty much do whatever they wanted once inside - which makes me wonder how
that wouldn't violate my 4th amendment rights.
Inspections are by consent--if you decide to withdraw consent and send
the inspector packing you should be able to, however if he doesn't get
to inspect everything he thinks he needs to inspect then you don't get
your Certificate of Occupancy.
Yeah I guess that goes without saying. Its just one of those things I
wanted to figure out before I dealt with in case my attitude problem ended
up costing me thousands and thousands of dollars.
Too bad I can't force him to put on a black sackcloth bag over his head
while I whirl him around 5 times then guide him to the place of inspection.
I'm sure it varies quite a bit by location. Here in Tucson I'm
building a workshop and doing some remodeling under a permit. The
inspectors have been great. They have bent over backwards to be
helpful, and have made an unmistakable point to not look at anything I
haven't specifically invited them to look at.
I think where they can get invasive is when they have received a
complaint, and the homeowner refuses them entry to the property. then
they have to go get a search warrant, be accompanied by cops, and the
whole thing is about problems.
but your locality may be different from mine, and your specific
inspector may just happen to be a flaming asshole. ask around amongst
your neighbors for someone who has done permit/inspections for the
type of electrical work you're doing, and see what their experience
So they do have to have a search warrant and police escort to "just show up"
unless invited. That was something I had never heard myself, having always
assumed they could pretty much do whatever they wanted - in the name of
"safety". That was based on stories of inspectors who walked down streets
and knocked on people's doors that looked like they might have done work
It's not my intention to be a dickhead about it and I don't have anything to
hide regardless. Its just that I keep hearing these stories of inspectors
finding small things and causing the person the spend thousands and
thousands of dollars on items that simply shouldn't matter and didn't even
pertain to the original inspection. The electrician told me about the story
of the guy who finished his basement and was told to pull all the drywall
down - since drywalling requires a permit.
I wanted to ask about firsthand experience from others before I tangled with
the inspector and put myself into real trouble. The electrician who did the
work made it sound like the inspectors were real mixed bags, some were
ex-electricians, some were uneducated college kids.
I know in my area you cannot even paint your house without a permit which
leads me to think these guys play serious hardball. Part of that has to do
(I assume) with the fact that the city relies on permits from homebuilders
to pad the city funds. Now that home construction has slowed considerably
they're knuckling down on small permit items.
But I can live with it. I guess simply keeping my mouth shut and being
polite will get the job done. I'd certainly not pull a lawyer stint on him
and try to bully him around.
Generally, I've found that if you work with them, they will work with you.
No worries and no attitudes is the best approach IMHO.
If you claim you know more (which you may) or have rights (which you do) and
it is perceived as stepping on their toes or testing their influence, then
you will have a nit picking, detail oriented person on your case for a long
time to come.
Joe Agro, Jr.
Automatic / Pneumatic Drills: http://www.AutoDrill.com
Multiple Spindle Drills: http://www.Multi-Drill.com
As others said, I presume it can vary by locality, but where I've been
(in VA/TN now KS), the inspection covers the work scope of the permit
and _directly_ affected interconnection(s).
The only place I've ever seen any difficulties beyond that is if an
obvious and imminent hazard is observed--they're obligated to note that
and take action (and, of course, you would want them to in such a case).
They can't come to inspect a garage addition and use that as an excuse
for a complete household inspection/witch hunt. The place where the
garage feed ties into the existing panel or the new subpanel feed to
from the old is, of course, in that jurisdiction as noted. If that
shows an obvious fault in the main panel, he (rightfully) wouldn't be
required to simply ignore it. OTOH, that an existing house is, say,
2-wire service, the addition extension inspection doesn't mean the whole
house has to be brought up to current Code and can't cite old work that
was adequate as a current defect.
I live in MA - since due to union influence, a homeowner is not allowed
to do plumbing (even theoretically not allowed to change a faucet -
rationale is "water safety), I hired a plumber to work with me,
supervise me, and pull the permit.
All we did was redo some old cast iron piping and route a new drain
and supply line for a basement utility sink.
The inspector is a really nice guy and works very well with the
plumber. Nevertheless, in the basement he saw that there was an air
admittance valve installed (by a previous owner) to vent a seldom used
washing machine. This drain & vent run was not part of our
work. Notwithstanding the fact that the drain was 2", seldom used, and
probably would have worked fine without venting, the inspector cited
GENUINE (and he was genuine) safety concern about sewer gasses and
asked us to put in a proper vent. He was especially concerned when he
found out that we had children. This despite the fact that air
admittance valves are allowed in nearly all other jurisdictions.
But he wasn't being a dick -- he was genuinely concerned. In fact, he
said he trusted us to fix it and signed off on the work without
All in all, wasn't too bad because only cost me a few bucks for the
fittings and some time -- and now everything is up to code. But it
does show that at least in our town, if inspector thinks there is a
saftey issue (and most code items are by definition safety issues), he
can have you redo it even if it has nothing to do with your current
Is the inspector a town employee or a contractor.
If a town employee they can note obvious stuff, most will just restrict
themselves to the permit items.
A contractor for towns that have adopted the UCC and require you to bring in
a third party inspector will generally look just at what he is paid to look
Depends on how mercenary your municipality is.
I deal with municipal building inspectors on a weekly, sometimes daily,
basis, in reportedly one of the toughest jurisdictions for residential
construction in the country, and have yet to have an inspector look at
anything except what he was called out to inspect ... mostly they don't have
the time to do otherwise.
Providing you don't have the mafia involved in your local government, I
don't think you have anything to worry about in most locales.
AAMOF, welcome the inspector with sincerity, take the opportunity to ask
questions of him which you may not be sure about, and you'll probably enjoy
My favorite inspectors are the toughest ones. They ultimately make my job
easier, and more profitable, as a builder by allowing me to hold "the
trades" feet to the fire.
The inspectors are, in effect, doing you a favor by their presence,
especially when it comes to putting your house back on the market in a few
years ... which we shall all do in one way or the other. Homeowners need to
be aware that lenders are really getting into requiring "3rd party"
inspections prior to closing on home loans in the wake of the mortgage
crisis ... and these guys are hired to be junk yard dogs on _your_ house.
The local building inspectors are pussycats by comparison.
When we upgraded our electric panel for the house (which is located on
the outside of the garage) the electrical inspector wanted to see the
inside of the garage and my garage building permit...which was
completed and signed off 6 months earlier!. He also changed his mind
on how he wanted something completed half way through the inspection -
this ended up costing me an extra $500 in the end (I had a permit for
a attached garage...but he said it was detached...so it changed the
inerpretation of the electrical code.). The final straw was when the
power company called me at work and said " your power has been
disconnected...what do you want us to do now?" It seems the inspector
took it upon himself to call the power company and arrange my power to
be cut before my electrician was prepared for the transfer. The
inspector shouldn't even have been making that call.
Then again, I live in an area where a new door requires a permit.
If you would add but Plumbing and HVAC to that, both of which cry for
inspection to protect the unwary, I would mostly agree.
That said, the permitting process is used to enforce building standards and
to protect the unwary against the practices of shoddy remodelers and
builders, whose numbers are legion.
... and, just wait to see how those legions will multiply most don't speak
IOW, with regard to building permits/code enforcement, you ain't seen
nothing yet! ... and be thankful for it! :(
Absolutely agree ... it's amazing, how the interconnected complexity of a
plumbing system, discounting leaks, including hot and cold supply lines,
drain lines, water heating/distribution, the proper flushing of commodes for
the next 50 years or so, can all be problematic and are subject to a good
many scientific principles.
(That said, the only thing quicker to chill the bone's of a builder, other
than the sight of an electrician with a sawzall in hand, is a plumber with
Despite the need for a good design and ductwork, HVAC has a good bit of
'plumbing" involved as well ... Freon lines, drainage, both primary and
backup for the evaporator coils/air handler units, which are often in attics
where they can cause a great deal of damage when not designed properly
fail/get stopped up. While these guys aren't plumbers, they still need a lot
of the same skills for proper installation.
All in need of competent "inspection".
I can guarantee, unequivocally, that _most_ builder's, particularly the
Italian loafered, khaki pants/ blue button down shirt variety, driving from
jobsite to jobsite in a Lexus complete with wraparound Armani's, are NOT the
people you want making sure these things are done correctly!
DAMHIKT ... :)
Last update: 5/14/08
KarlC@ (the obvious)
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.