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Old 11-14-2008, 10:42 AM   #1
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Problem with building inspector. Please help.


I was having my bathroom remodeled in PA. I looked on the website for my city and it said nothing about a bathroom needing a permit. My contractor said that I should not need one since I am not changing the structure but only pulling out a tub and putting a new one in and also a new sink. Well after 2 days of work, my nice little neighbor across the street called the inspector who came down and immediately accused me of illegal construction. He was very rude from the get go. I was shocked so I asked what I needed to do? He said I needed to have the contractor stop and he could fine me $2000 a day and hold the permit for 30 days which would cost me $60,000. I said in a shock, you mean a fine? And he said, "oh so you want to be fines do you!" and he said something on his nextel. I said no, that's not what I meant! I just want to get this resolved! Why are you being such a dick? I asked. He said, oh, are you threatening me, I will call 911 if I have to. Then he proceeded to scream at the top of his lungs that my neighbors must hate me! He screamed this. Then he screamed, you don't know the law do you! (which I thought I did according to the website). At that moment, my guy came out and he seemed to calm down. Was he treating me different because I was female? I asked him where I needed to go to get the permit, and all he would say was, I dunno, I dunno. Basically playing stupid. My guy then talked to him. He seemed to calm down. At that point he refused to talk to me. I asked if I could just get a permit. He said, "I will give a permit to you but not to her!" referring to my contractor. So he went down and filed the permit. It has been 2 days and when I call down there, the lady says it is still in the bin and they just haven't gotten around to it. My bathroom is half apart and I have kids! We haven't bathed in 4 days but I am afraid to do anything because these guys could make it worse for me I feel. I have drywall and materials in my living room. It would be done by now if it wasn't for this! What can I do???

I heard these people can make your lives a living hell. I would like to not take it but fight back against unprofessional behavior and retaliation. I just want the permit so I can get on with it and get my bathroom finished. My house is almost inhabitable which is what the inspectors office seems to be doing to me. I thought they were there to protect us as public officials? I am afraid of his threats to fine me. Really afraid to call. In fact, I just called and the lady at the permit office told me she will call me when the permit is approved.

(STUCK) I feel people should not be punished for trying to improve their bathroom. (The old one had all the shingles falling down and water was washing behind the tub and if I had waited, I would have rotted my joints). What do you do if you call an emergency plumber service with water gushing everywhere? Wait to do work until you can pull a permit?

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Old 11-14-2008, 11:05 AM   #2
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I would be calling his boss and the city officials. I would call the press. I would make so many waves that this guy would have to leave the country.

He also made you feel threatened. This is called assault and I would be calling the police (assault is not physical contact, battery is physical contact). You can also get a restraining order against him which will screw him over big time.

There is no reason to treat anyone like this. He was totally unprofessional and needs to find another job where he works alone.

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Old 11-14-2008, 11:24 AM   #3
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Problem with building inspector. Please help.


I am afraid. Should I just wait till the bathroom gets done and yell later? I am very apprehensive and still fear the retaliation. I feel I could scream and they could make it worse. He said he could drag it on.

I just want my bathroom done :-( so I can take a bath.
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Old 11-14-2008, 11:36 AM   #4
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Problem with building inspector. Please help.


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Originally Posted by troach View Post
I am afraid. Should I just wait till the bathroom gets done and yell later? I am very apprehensive and still fear the retaliation. I feel I could scream and they could make it worse. He said he could drag it on.

I just want my bathroom done :-( so I can take a bath.
I can't say. But the threats he made are illegal and you could have a good chance of making a claim against the city for damages.

But I am a scrapper and know my rights.

Most inspectors are nice caring easy going people. On the other hand some have a God complex and enjoy making life difficult for people like you and me. I have had to deal with both.

If I were you I would be screaming at the top of my lungs. Just an in person visit to his supervisor would probably get results.

My guess is that this inspector has had issues before and management is fully aware of his problems.
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Old 11-14-2008, 12:00 PM   #5
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My Contractor just said lets finish it since they are now asking for drawings and creating red tape because that creates another 7 day wait. When finished, I can cancel the permit. Just say we decided to cancel it. The Inspector did not get into the house.

Would that work? It will be done in 2 days if he works through the weekened and we will just say we repainted the walls.

Wouldn't they have to prove that I did something? It is my house. Is that the best approach? What's the risks?
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Old 11-14-2008, 12:23 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by troach View Post
My Contractor just said lets finish it since they are now asking for drawings and creating red tape because that creates another 7 day wait. When finished, I can cancel the permit. Just say we decided to cancel it. The Inspector did not get into the house.

Would that work? It will be done in 2 days if he works through the weekened and we will just say we repainted the walls.

Wouldn't they have to prove that I did something? It is my house. Is that the best approach? What's the risks?
Finish it.

He never saw it and in order for him to come in uninvited he will have to get a warrant. To get that he will have to have a lot of evidence to convince a judge to issue the warrant. The evidence will have to include things like what you are doing is dangerous and has potential for life or serious threat of injury. Few judges are inclined to issue a warrant for stuff like "we think they are doing this".

Then the police will have to execute the warrant to get the inspector in.

In fact the inspectors can't even step foot on your property except to knock on your door.

Can't give you legal advice on what to do in your situation but I kind of agree with your contractor. Then again I am a rebel to begin with so take that into consideration.
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Old 11-14-2008, 01:00 PM   #7
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Problem with building inspector. Please help.


A $60,000 loss (plus penalties) on a simple tub and sink replacement? - Something does not make sense!! and there must be more to the story.

You have shingle problems, water in the walls in addition to probably new floors and vanity. Sounds like a bit of major items including exterior, interior, plumbing and probably some electrical.

Anyone that relies on the internet for legal and code advice when it is much easier to check with the code people to determine the actual requirements is wrong. Did you bother to check with the permit people or even ask your contractor? It sounds like the inspector has more respect for the contractor than you.

Unless there is a personal issue, a neighbor will only complain if they think the project is being done poorly, will affect their property value or they will pay higher taxes because you are not paying your fair share.

Calling the inspector a "jerk" was obviously a very bad move.

It gives people a good feeling to fight city hall, but is not always the proper route to go unless you just giving advice.

Dick
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Old 11-14-2008, 01:04 PM   #8
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A $60,000 loss (plus penalties) on a simple tub and sink replacement? - Something does not make sense!! and there must be more to the story.

You have shingle problems, water in the walls in addition to probably new floors and vanity. Sounds like a bit of major items including exterior, interior, plumbing and probably some electrical.

Anyone that relies on the internet for legal and code advice when it is much easier to check with the code people to determine the actual requirements is wrong. Did you bother to check with the permit people or even ask your contractor? It sounds like the inspector has more respect for the contractor than you.

Unless there is a personal issue, a neighbor will only complain if they think the project is being done poorly, will affect their property value or they will pay higher taxes because you are not paying your fair share.

Calling the inspector a "jerk" was obviously a very bad move.

It gives people a good feeling to fight city hall, but is not always the proper route to go unless you just giving advice.

Dick
You sound shocked that someone would act this way? So was I. hence the comment which I probably should not have done. It's not bad (meaning no damage)according to my guy and I saw it. He said if I waited a while it would have been a problem and I was right to act when I did (but sooner the better). Nontheless, I tried to correct the problem and thought I was within my right to fix it (based on what I was told), and I then tried to correct it after I was informed I needed a permit and then I was nothing but threatened and given disinformation. I am just frustrated. I don't want to fight city hall, I want my bathroom finished so I can take a bath.

I checked the city website for what is required and they had a FAQ section. It said nothing about bathrooms. It also said, you do not need a permit if their are no structural changes.

I have gotten a lot of opinions, and they are all over the place. I appreciate yours. I really do.

Last edited by troach; 11-14-2008 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 11-14-2008, 02:15 PM   #9
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I'm an inspector. I deal with people working without permits on a very regular basis. I've never once screamed at anyone in the manner you described, although I've had to be assertive a time or two when the contractor or homeowner acts combative. As for the way you were treated, he has no right to do that and you should inform the City Manager, the mayor, and your councilmembers.

However, you screwed up bigtime when you argued with him and called him a jerk. Even though he's in the wrong, you stooped to his level. Any complaint you make regarding him should include that, otherwise you're not being truthful. Level-headedness will prevail, but you have to remain level-headed and humble, given the situation you're in. From my standpoint, someone that is being abusive or mouthing off is going to get a very, very, very thorough inspection out of me...If it gets too abusive the job gets shut down until they gain an understaning of how to be professional.

My suggestion is to state to the city officials that due to his confrontational behavior, you feel unsafe having him near you, your family, or your home. Request another inspector or an approved third party inspector at the City's expense. If there's a fine, take your lumps and learn a tough lesson.

Now...The code. You and your contractor screwed up by not getting a permit. The type of work you are doing often requires a permit, and it is your/your contractor's responsibility to know the codes and requirements. Checking the website does not absolve you of the responsibility for knowledge of the city's codes and ordinances. So, that's a null and void point, and I'd drop it. Here, you'd get an automatic $500 fine for working without a permit.

In the real world...Where inspectors are normal pretty good guys (not your neighborhood apparently!)...The inspection and permitting process is in place to advocate for your family's safety, your home's longevity, compliance with local ordinance, and to ensure that work is done right. Any contractor that sidesteps or avoids the permitting and inspection process is not doing you any favors, and compliance with minimum code standards is no challenge for a competent contractor or subcontractor.

As for dealing with this inspector, I would avoid it by going over his head. He will most certainly make this tough on you for whatever reason he has in his head. By law, he has the right of entry onto your job and property (chapter one of the international codes) whenever he sees fit. Your best bet is to get another inspector assigned to your job. If he's the only one, the city should make arrangements for a 3rd party, given his threatening behavior.

In inspector circles, we call guys like this "the ten pound badge" and we hate them as much as you do.
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Old 11-14-2008, 02:18 PM   #10
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It also said, you do not need a permit if their are no structural changes.
If it says that, I'd print it off and ask the high-ups in the city about it. Fact is, the code they have adopted has much stricter requirements than that statement implies, and you're required to know it, or find someone that does. If the website says that, it is some poor information. That essentially says you can re-wire your house with no permit if you ask me, and I assure you, you can't!
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Old 11-14-2008, 02:22 PM   #11
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I am not shocked after seeing many similar situations where a home owner tries to take over and fight a battle thay cannot win because they have not been diligent. If you had looked further into the code, the inspector could have been working for you instead of against you to make sure you were protected from yourself and the "contractor", who may have been a DIYer working cheap to do what was necessary to get the job done and get paid. A real contractor would have done things properly.

Apparently the inspector has more respect for the contractor after your ill-advised actions. Not knowing the difference between shingles and tile is no excuse for not knowing what is required and is going on.

Dick

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Old 11-14-2008, 02:33 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by concretemasonry View Post
I am not shocked after seeing many similar situations where a home owner tries to take over and fight a battle thay cannot win because they have not been diligent. If you had looked further into the code, the inspector could have been working for you instead of against you to make sure you were protected from yourself and the "contractor", who may have been a DIYer working cheap to do what was necessary to get the job done and get paid. A real contractor would have done things properly.

Apparently the inspector has more respect for the contractor after your ill-advised actions. Not knowing the difference between shingles and tile is no excuse for not knowing what is required and is going on.

Dick

Dick
I agree with Dick 100%, but the inspector's behavior has to remain fairly professional.

This is a losing battle for you, guaranteed. The only battle you could fight and possibly win is the issue about his behavior.
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Old 11-14-2008, 03:11 PM   #13
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Problem with building inspector. Please help.


If i were in your shoes i would be upset at this contractor that you are paying to do this job when he doesn't know enough or didn't do his homework to know he needs a permit. Any contractor should know that most any bathroom remodel is going to need a permit. Your right that the inspector acting way out of line but in my opinion your contractor is more out of line for trying to do a job without doing his homework, and charging you. That is why you are paying him to be a contractor, so you don't have to worry about the details of the job, he should be the one taking care of this with the inspector cause that's a contractors responsibility. If i were you i would have a talk with your contractor about why this happened and how he is going to fix this, quickly. If he isn't going to take care of this i would print off that website that says you don't need a permit unless doing structural changes and bring it down to the building inspectors in person, say sorry for not doing things in the right order and explain why you were confused and explain you would like to do this the right way but as quickly as posible cause of the lack of a bathroom. Most inspectors do actually have a heart and hopefully will help you out the best they can. And then hope all your contractors work passes inspection and he hasn't forgot any other parts of being a contractor. Do your have a contract with this contractor?
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Old 11-14-2008, 05:05 PM   #14
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Problem with building inspector. Please help.


I would take the $500 if that is all it was and go down and complain. The fact that I can be hit with more scares me.

I talked to the contractor and he went down there to talk to them again today. They are asking for drawings now. Meanwhile I sit here.
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Old 11-14-2008, 07:13 PM   #15
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when ever I remodel bathrooms I have to pull a plumbing permit not a building permit,that could be why they stated no structural changes, but the plumbing still has to be inspected. BOB

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