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.
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.
“Exclusions 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.
Commentary 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:
Smock or other covering
Mask or respirator
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!
It should go without saying that home inspectors are not plumbers. That’s not enough for the greedy inspectors who foist these inspections on unsuspecting clients for hefty fees. Even if the camera inspections are free they are ILLEGAL unless the inspector is also a licensed plumber. If you doubt this read the ruling issued by the Texas Real Estate Commission.
5 Tips When Planning for Your Home’s Maintenance and Rehabilitation
Buying a home is a considerable expense, but the beautiful thing about it is that you have your own place that it may just replicate your dream home. We are sure you want to keep it that way over the years, which is why maintaining the property is essential. Preparing for the process of maintenance or rehabilitation might save you some time and money and here are some tips to keep in mind in that area.
The Gutters Should Be Clean
This might be unnoticeable, but it is an essential component when it comes to preventing potential problems in the future. It’s the gutters that catch water that runs off from the roof and divert it in the opposite direction from your house, which makes them an integral part of the residential drainage system. If you head to the basement and notice that water is accumulating, the reason may be small water diversion or improper gutter maintenance. You should ensure to clean the gutters once or twice every year and do not only use the hose to rinse them, but also inspect the channels and physically remove any debris.
Inspect the Roof
Just to be on the safe side, you should do this twice per year – in the spring and in the autumn. You should be looking for any form of damages, as well as discolorations. This will help you to prevent any future leaks and loss that they may cause. You should mainly focus on shingles that are located around your chimneys, vents, and skylights, as this is where most leaks occur. If you notice any discoloration, you may need to repaint that section. Or, while you are there, why not repaint the entire roof to complement your house siding?
Inspect the Exterior of Your Home
When you plan to do this, make sure to have enough time and patience to do a proper job. If you notice a joint that may lead to leaks, consider using house wrap to improve weather resistance. Pay particular attention to wood siding if you have one. If you haven’t done anything to maintain it in a while, there is a good chance that it will need repainting. However, your primary concern should be that there is no damage from insects or water as wood is prone to that.
Inspect the Interior Walls
Once you are done with the exterior, move to the interior of your house and start with the walls. You should look for potential leaks and places where drywall perhaps needs to be removed, as well as anything else that may seem out of the ordinary. If you have stone accent walls, make sure to check their condition by looking for grout between them. Also, keep in mind that various impacts may have damaged or loosened them.
Check the Rest of the Interior
Walk from one room to the other and look for possible issues. If you are starting from the bathroom, check the toilet tank, washing machine, and dryer for possible leaks. Experienced homeowners say that you should pay particular attention to the metal ends of the hoses used for water supply. As for the water heater, you should make sure to drain it at least once every year. The reason is that sediments from the water that settles on the floor of the heater may damage its bottom.
The chances are you also have some leaky faucets in your home, so make sure to include that in your upcoming maintenance session. You should also analyze the pipes and check if the water flows freely through them or they need to be unclogged. Finally, do not forget to check the condensation hose of your air conditioner and see if you need to change the air filters in your central heat and air unit.
Once you have all the things that you need to do list, it is much easier to organize your maintenance session and conduct it in the most effective way. If you are a homeowner, the chances are that you will need the help of a professional. However, informing yourself on what needs to be done before calling your maintenance guy can save you both some time, and you may even keep some money in your pockets.