The bedlamites in Austin have been at it again. As of September 1, 2019,
in all municipalities in Texas, the minimal building codes will be dealt a severe blow. The morons whom some folks have voted into the legislature, in their infinite ignorance, have deemed that Texas municipal building inspectors can no longer choose to adopt any building codes that are more stringent than the national model codes. As if the current codes are not lenient enough the builders can now skirt the building officials who want to eliminate the use of questionably safe, durable, or outright dangerous building products and procedures.
This is yet another move on the part of the powerful Texas homebuilders lobby to gut the codes, thumb their noses at regulation, and proceed to make a profit to the detriment of the home buying public. Previously the same regime that has been in power in the state for decades negated the code requirements for fire-suppression sprinkler systems in all houses.
If you voted for these imbeciles, please take a moment prior to the next election to actually think about who you are supporting. Regardless who you voted for please consider contacting your senators and representatives to complain about the passage of House Bill 2439 during the last session of lunacy.
One of the prevailing myths, i.e. anecdotal bullshit stories, in my profession is that all inspectors are either required to or at least certainly should walk upon all roof surfaces during inspections. Nothing could be further from the truth. These sorts of stories are perpetuated by real estate salespeople – agents and brokers – and oftentimes by know-nothing inspectors themselves. Let’s look at the facts.
Mounting a roof is a dangerous activity that should never be taken lightly. This sort of activity should only be undertaken when absolutely required, such as in the case of a roofer performing an installation or a roof repair. How dangerous is it? Enough so that OSHA does not allow it without a significant amount of training and the use of very pricey approved personal protective equipment (PPE). Stiff fines are imposed on scofflaws by OSHA.
Municipal building inspection departments strictly prohibit their field inspectors from climbing on roofs. Most, if not all, home builders specifically instruct third-party inspectors to keep off the roofs during their inspections. All of the major home inspector organization clearly state that inspectors must not walk on roofs.
Even most roofing companies do not actually walk on roofs while performing inspections for hail and wind damage. They rely upon satellite imaging in order to protect their employees. The same is true of insurance adjusters.
So, as a layperson looking to have a house inspected, how exactly might you arrive at the conclusion that home inspectors are less important than all of the above mentioned entities? From your real estate agent, or from the Google repository of unsubstantiated “facts” . . . or both? Thought so.
We are living in a fact-free society. One that allows any blather spewed forth from any mouth to pass as the truth. Everyone considers him- or herself to be an expert. Salespersons, much like our politicians, lead this crowd of nonsense distributors. Though they may assume they have become inspectors via osmosis, in reality they know nothing about houses other than how to sell and buy them. Often as not, they fail at that.
With the advent of the Internet, Google, and other search engines an enormous amount of information is available at the push of a button. How much of it can be believed? Think: Cambridge Analytica. If I now have your attention let’s proceed to the truth about walking on roofs.
There are many safe and certain methods for inspecting roof surfaces without risking injury or death by walking on them. Standing on the ground with 8X42 or 10X50 binoculars will reveal the color of a bird’s eyes that is roosting on the ridge. A moderately-priced 50X camera will take a picture of any defects noted with the binoculars. When possible, viewing the roof from a ladder at the edge is also a good way to avoid death by falling.
Yes, there are some roofs where these methods will not work. Some houses require a 36′ or 48′ ladder in order to reach the roof’s edge. Some roofs are higher than that. These roofs are unsafe for individual inspectors due to OSHA rules of ladder safety. One man cannot safely use a ladder of this height. Other roofs need not be walked upon due to the type of surface or the weather conditions during an inspection. For these roofs a certified roofer or steeplejack should be employed.
Other roofs, like older deteriorated asphalt, concrete or clay tiles, and slate can be easily damaged by walking on them. Even brand new asphalt shingles should not be installed, much less walked upon, in temperatures below freezing or above 85° lest they be damaged. Some other roof coverings like metal are too slick to safely mount.
Walking on a roof, for other than the actual installation or repair of it, is a foolish thing to do. If you want a fool for an inspector be certain to choose one that claims he will walk on ANY roof no matter what the circumstances.
While I do walk on some lower pitched roofs when I deem it both necessary and safe, I avoid most due to an inherent drive toward self-preservation. In the end it is the expert’s (my) choice, and not yours. Unless, of course, your time spent at Google University and listening to your agent has allowed you to surpass the knowledge I have gained during the last 44 years.
Here are a few examples of what I am talking about here:
Suggested Further Reading for the Doubtful:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Fatal work-related falls to a lower level increased 26 percent from 2011 to 2016 https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/fatal-work-related-falls-to-a-lower-level-increased-26-percent-from-2011-to-2016.htm
Those of you who know me understand that I rarely have a good word to say regarding all things governmental. That said, the FHA surprised me last August by eliminating their in-house approval process for FHA inspectors and requiring that those doing FHA inspections be certified by the International Code Council as R-5 Residential Combination Inspectors, as I have been for over 20 years.
The approval process in the past was minimal. The inspector had merely to “prove” (read: claim) three whole years construction experience and be in possession of a feckless license to do business from the Texas Real Estate Commission. This ensured that whatever was being inspected, it was being scrutinized by know-nothings. ICC Combination Inspectors look for compliance with local building codes as well as specific HUD requirements.
When a person applies for an FHA/HUD/VA/USDA loan it is usually because they cannot qualify for a conventional loan. This person also typically does not have the means to foot the bill for any major repairs required due to the typical and widespread lackluster Texas home builder performance. These folks need protection and the FHA has finally taken a step in the right direction for providing this to their borrowers.
Kudos to the FHA Commissioner for doing the right thing.
We should all be waiting for June 16th with bated breath when the half-baked 2019 Texas legislative session finally comes to an end. Every two years the drooling idiots we elect gather in Austin to torment us with their seeming lack of understanding of nearly everything.
This session has proven especially egregious in many respects. To avoid waxing partisan I will spare you my opinions on most of these, e.g. immigration, abortion, cannabis, taxes, health care, gun control, education, et al. I want to focus on just one issue: plumbers.
The Texas legislature, hereinafter known as “the Morons” has, in their infinite stupidity, decided to eliminate the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners. That is the group that is (was) responsible for overseeing the education and licensing of plumbers.
Texas plumbers have been growing in importance in the eyes of the Morons for decades. A few years back they decided that plumbers could also legally perform electrical work on any system they were repairing or installing – without an electrician’s license. Before that, it was decided that a master plumber could perform whole-house building code inspections – without code certification. Renaissance men, I assume.
Now, we have the ultimate. Plumbers have busted out of their legendary phone booth and are prepared to fly above the rest of us unencumbered by any of those pesky plumbing regulations and codes.
That leaves the rest of us circling the proverbial bowl.
Read this chilling (for Realtors) article from Inman’s Robert Hahn.
One of the exurbs (a district outside a city, especially a prosperous area beyond the suburbs, dictionary.com), which shall remain unnamed to protect myself, where I inspect in the DFW Metroplex has a person working as Chief Building Official (CBO) who appears to be working against the best interest of the home buying public. Though this person possesses the requisite professional certifications for the job he/she is apparently disseminating false information to the home buyers in his/her district that all should be made aware of.
Among other numerous specious opinions, i.e. interpretations of the building and electrical code that he/she evidently pulled directly out of the terminus of his/her digestive system, rendered by this person during the course of inspections recently on a property there, one in particular stood out. He/she explained to the buyer of a new home that he/she would not be inclined to enforce certain code issues because the builder would “take care of those under the warranty”. Really? Now the builder is the building official and the building official is working for the builder, right? Who knew it was supposed to work that way?
Many, if not all, builder warranties exclude building code related issues and any items you provided on a punch list to your builder that did not get repaired before closing. This means that your builder has no obligation to make repairs to building code defects after closing escrow.
An example can be found in my client’s warranty. Similar wording is to be found in other warranties.
The following are NOT covered under this Limited Warranty:Violation of applicable building codes or ordinances, unless such violation results in a Defect which is otherwise covered under this Limited Warranty. Under such circumstances, the obligation of Builder under this Limited Warranty will only be to repair the defective warranted portion of the Home, but not to restore or bring the Home to conform to code.”
Check your own warranty so that you gain a better understanding of what is and is not covered. Read carefully as these are written to obfuscate the fact that they exclude more than they cover.
Further, it is my understanding that this building official told the buyer at one point in time that he/she was not comfortable fielding questions regarding a house that he/she did not yet own. Fortunately for this buyer he/she had already purchased the lot so the house was in his/her name on the tax roles.
The municipality in question has adopted the 2015 version of the International Residential Code, among others. In that volume it clearly states:
“R104.1 General. The building official is hereby authorized
and directed to enforce the provisions of this code. The building
official shall have the authority to render interpretations
of this code and to adopt policies and procedures in order to
clarify the application of its provisions. Such interpretations,
policies and procedures shall be in conformance with the
intent and purpose of this code. Such policies and procedures
shall not have the effect of waiving requirements specifically
provided for in this code.
The duty of the building official is to enforce the code.
He or she is the “authority having jurisdiction” for all
matters relating to the code and its enforcement. It is
the duty of the building official to interpret the code and
to determine compliance. Code compliance will not
always be easy to determine and will require judgment
and expertise, particularly when enforcing the provisions
of Sections R104.10 and R104.11. In exercising
this authority, however, the building official cannot set
aside or ignore any provision of the code.
The building official establishes policies and procedures
that will clarify the applications of the code. The
development of those policies and procedures should
not be simply for the convenience of the jurisdiction’s
employees, but should be viewed as a way to effectively
communicate to all interested parties involved in
the construction process how the department will process
applications, review construction documents,
make inspections, approve projects, and determine
and clarify the application of the code provisions. Properly
developed, these policies and procedures can
make the code enforcement department more predictable
for those who are regulated and will also establish
improved code compliance and public relations.
When interpretation of the code is needed, the building
official is the one individual of the jurisdiction with
the legal authority to interpret the code and determine
how the provisions should be applied, in both general
and specific cases. Some departments formalize the
interpretation process and require the person with a
question to submit their question in writing. Departments
are encouraged to develop policies for both formal
(written) and informal (verbal) requests for code
interpretations. Any such interpretations must be in
conformance with the intent and letter of the code and
may not waive any requirements. It may be necessary
in some cases for the building official to write these
code interpretations into the permit.”
It is assumed that the reasonable man on the street understands what this says. It is written in English and is required reading for anyone aspiring to become or just simply wakes up one day to find themselves a building official. That said, I question the reasonableness of the code official in question. Folks like this are out there. Buyer beware.
On that note another publication from the authors of the International Residential Code is the Legal Aspects of Code Administration. In Chapter 9 of this volume it states in part, “The Latin term caveat emptor, means “let the buyer beware.” Thus, it is up to the purchaser to determine the soundness of the building prior to the finalization of the purchase or to hire a professional inspector”, (italics are mine).
In Texas where big business reigns supreme, and don’t kid yourself homebuilding is BIG BUSINESS, developers and home builders are at the wheel. They apparently have the legislators and municipal officials under thumb. If you are not looking to get thoroughly screwed you had better hire a competent independent inspector to inspect your house from the ground up in order to avoid being taken advantage of by this good ole’ boy system that includes the CBO in question.
Many of you have read my reports where I mention the importance of rodent-proofing new and existing houses. This is crucial. We only build houses for a couple of reasons: to keep the elements off our heads and to choose which animals we’d like to live with. The following article by Jessica Kane speaks to identifying the signs of an invasion of the unwanted. Enjoy!
Telltale Signs of Rodent Droppings and Rodent Infestation in Your Home
In order to fully protect your family from the harm that can be caused from rodent infestation of your residence, you need to familiarize yourself with the telltale signs of rodent droppings in and around your home. You must understand that rodent infestation at your home will not only result in physical damage to your home, it can expose your loved ones to potentially serious diseases.
What do Rodent Droppings Look Like?
There are three types of rodent droppings that a homeowner in the United States needs to be aware of, including:
The feces from each of these animals are different in their appearance. A mouse dropping looks rather like a grain of brown rice. A mouse produces the smallest droppings of the three types of rodents that can infest a U.S. residence. Mouse droppings normally are thin with at least one end that is pointed
Rat droppings are larger than those produces by a mouse. A rat dropping tends to be oblong in shape. A rat dropping typically is slightly wider in the middle area of a feces from this rodent. A rat dropping usually is darker in color that a rat feces. This type of dropping usually has a shiny and moist appearance. Over time, a rat dropping becomes a bit lighter in color.
Although an adult squirrel is larger that a mouse or rat, a squirrel’s dropping is close in size to that of the much smaller mouse. A rat dropping is smaller than that of a rat. A squirrel dropping is the darkest type of rodent feces.
Location of Rodent Droppings
The location of rodent droppings is also indicative of the type of animal that may be infesting your home. Rats and mice tend to leave droppings in lines, but not in one location. They tend to leave lines of droppings in locations in your home that they use to get from one location to another.
Squirrels tend to establish what fairly can be called latrines, when it comes to their droppings. In other words, if you’ve some type of squirrel infestation, you are likely to find growing piles of squirrel feces in or around your home. As an aside, while rats and mice are likely to nest in different parts of your home, is squirrels infest the interior of your home, they are likely to be found in the attic.
Rodent Droppings as a Sign of Infestation
If you are attempting to confirm whether or not some type of rodent has infested your home, you will also want to pay attention to the color of feces. As rodent feces age, they become lighter in color.
If the rodent droppings you find in your residence appear lighter in color, even with something of a gray hue, they are not fresh and have been around for some time. If you only identify rodent feces of this nature, with this color, you likely do not have a current rodent infestation. Rodents were present in your home in the past, but by feces that appear lighter in color, with a grayish hue, and dry, odds are that whatever rodents that were once in your home vacated.
Health Dangers of Rodent Feces
In addition to being indicative of rodent infestation, feces can also be highly dangerous in and of themselves. For example, rat mouse feces can carry the hantavirus. A human infected by the hantavirus can end up seriously ill or even die.
You need to keep in mind that live hantavirus persists in rodent feces, even after the droppings dry. Dry feces crumble easily. If infected by the hantavirus, a dry rodent dropping can crumble and release the virus into the air. When that happens, the situation becomes very serious. A person can breathe in the dust from the feces, infected themselves with the hantavirus.
Rodent Feces Cleanup
Because of the potential for dangerous pathogens contained in rodent feces, care must be taken when droppings are cleaned up. Indeed, consideration should be given to retaining the professional services of a rodent feces cleanup specialist. If you are going to attempt to cleanup rodent feces, you must utilize appropriate personal protective equipment, including:
Due to the risk of airborne virus infection, a respirator is recommended over the use of a mask. As noted previously, professional rodent feces cleanup is recommended over self-help when it comes to cleaning up what can be dangerous droppings.
Those familiar with my reports know that I devote several paragraphs to information on proper lot drainage. The following article penned by Angie Bersin of Redfin focuses on this critical topic. Enjoy!