The North Carolina Senate last week unanimously passed a critical piece of legislation to improve the local building code & inspection process statewide. HB 255, ‘Building Code Regulatory Reform,’ includes a number of important provisions that will benefit home builders and general contractors in Mecklenburg County and across the state, such as:
- Creates a 7-member residential code committee within our 17-member state building code council (BCC), which would have to approve any proposed change in the One- and Two-Family Code before it could be further considered by the full council.
- Prohibits “partial inspections” by requiring a code official to complete all parts of a builder-requested inspection, instead of the practice in some jurisdictions where inspectors end their inspection when a single item “fails.” This should substantially reduce “re-inspections” and be more efficient for the builder and the inspector.
- Clarifies that inspection fees must be spent only for activities of the inspections department and not for other purposes.
- Clarifies code official misconduct by providing specific examples of actions subject to discipline by the Code Officials Qualification Board (e.g., enforcement of a code requirement more stringent than or otherwise exceeds Code requirements; the habitual failure to provide requested inspections in a timely manner).
- Tasks the BCC with studying procedures and policies for speeding approval of alternative materials, designs or methods.
- Requires that all appeal decisions, interpretations and variations of the Code issued by the BCC and all commentaries and written interpretations made by the DOI staff be posted on the DOI/ Council’s website within ten (10) business days.
- Provides that components or elements of in the construction of a building prepared under seal by an architect or engineer can be accepted without the need for further inspection by the county or city if the design professional performs a field inspection and certifies that the component or element meets the Code.
- Clarifies that while an inspector may make as many inspections as necessary to be satisfied that the work is being performed in accordance with the applicable requirements, only those inspections specifically set forth in the NC Building Code may be required.
- Raises the financial threshold from $5,000 to $15,000 triggering when a building permit is required while retaining the current exceptions to the monetary limit (e.g., addition, repair, replacement of load bearing structures; the addition replacement, or change in design of plumbing, HVAC, electrical wiring, etc.).
Last Wednesday, several members of the Senate Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee praised this legislation when it came before them for review, and even recounted personal experiences that they believe this bill will address. After 40 minutes of discussion, the bill received unanimous, bi-partisan approval and was subsequently calendared for Senate floor debate and vote on Thursday.
To respond to a request arising from the state’s building inspectors in remarks made to the committee, a representative from the inspections community was added to the proposed residential code committee created within the council. Senator Tommy Tucker (R-Union) offered that amendment, supported by the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), which was adopted during Senate floor debate.
House Bill 255 now goes back to the House for a single concurrence vote (likely tomorrow) before heading to the Governor for his signature.
REBIC and NCHBA would like to thank Representative Mark Brody (R-Union) for his dedication and persistence in advancing the legislation, as well as House principal co-sponsors Representatives Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) and Sam Watford (R-Davidson). We would also like to thank Senators Andrew Brock (R-Iredell), Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) and Ben Clark (D-Hoke) for being the principal sponsors of the Senate companion bill. All of these members clearly understand the importance of the home building industry to North Carolina and are committed to improving the building code and inspection process for the benefit of the public and the industry.