Permits, Inspections, and Certificate of Occupancy

This topic covers section 1 of the wind mitigation form. It covers questions about the Florida Building Code, South Florida Building Code, and previous model building codes that were in affect at the time of construction. All questions and answers provided in this section are geared towards helping inspectors and home owners better understand the use and completion of the form.
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Robert R Sheppard
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Permits, Inspections, and Certificate of Occupancy

Postby Robert R Sheppard » February 13th, 2017, 11:21 am

What does a permit, inspection by a Building Inspector/Official, and/or Certificate of Occupancy mean?

I have been asked this question many times over the last few years, mostly in response to the finding of construction defects in new homes. Construction defect are typically issues with systems or components of a newer home that are not installed in accordance with their approval by the Building Official (construction documents that were submitted and approved by the B.O.)or the minimum requirements of the Florida Building Code.

So first, what is a permit and what is its’ purpose?

The issuance of a permit from an Authority Having Jurisdiction (typically a Building Department) allows the applicant to proceed with the approved work only. Nothing more. It neither confirms or denies that the work being performed is "complaint". It does not give a contractor, home owner, or any other person performing under the approved permit exemption from the Florida Building Code.

Florida Building Code: 105.4.1 Permit intent.
A permit issued shall be construed to be a license to proceed with the work and not as authority to violate, cancel, alter or set aside any of the provisions of the technical codes, nor shall issuance of a permit prevent the building official from thereafter requiring a correction of errors in plans, construction or violations of this code. Every permit issued shall become invalid unless the work authorized by such permit is commenced within six months after its issuance, or if the work authorized by such permit is suspended or abandoned for a period of six months after the time the work is commenced.

If you are performing work as an Owner/Builder that is regulated by the Florida Building Code, you are responsible for all work being performed under that permit to comply with the Florida Building Code even though you are not a licensed Contractor. This also includes repairs not subject to a permit performed on your home:

Florida Building Code: 105.1 Required.
Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any impact-resistant coverings, electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit.

So, what does an inspection performed by a local Building Inspector mean?

Typically, this means that the work was inspected by the AHJ (Building Inspector) and found to be “complaint” with the approved construction documents and/or the Florida Building Code. As we all know, this is not always the case. Far from it. Building Departments are stretched thin, under-funded, under-staffed, and can place a high number of inspections on one inspectors’ shoulders per day.

It has been stated in the past that Building Inspectors can be called upon to perform upwards of 30-40 inspections a day. This is an impossible task when it comes to inspecting all systems and components thoroughly and effectively.

Even after a Building Inspector passes an inspection, this does not relieve the home owner or Contractor from their obligation of complying with the Florida Building Code should a defect be missed during that inspection:

Florida Building Code: 110.1 General.
Construction or work for which a permit is required shall be subject to inspection by the building official and such construction or work shall remain accessible and exposed for inspection purposes until approved. Approval as a result of an inspection shall not be construed to be an approval of a violation of the provisions of this code or of other ordinances of the jurisdiction. Inspections presuming to give authority to violate or cancel the provisions of this code or of other ordinances of the jurisdiction shall not be valid. It shall be the duty of the permit applicant to cause the work to remain accessible and exposed for inspection purposes. Neither the building official nor the jurisdiction shall be liable for expense entailed in the removal or replacement of any material required to allow inspection.

Now that you have your permit, and have completed all of the required inspections by the AHJ, you should be receiving a Certificate of Occupancy for your new home. What does this mean and how does this effect possible building code violations?

The issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy gives the owner right to occupy the structure, it does not grant or approve any person receiving the Certificate of Occupancy means to violate the Florida Building Code:

Florida Building Code: 111.1 Use and occupancy.
No building or structure shall be used or occupied, and no change in the existing occupancy classification of a building or structure or portion thereof shall be made, until the building official has issued a certificate of occupancy therefor as provided herein. Issuance of a certificate of occupancy shall not be construed as an approval of a violation of the provisions of this code or of other ordinances of the jurisdiction.

Permits, inspections, and a Certificate of Occupancy do not confirm compliance with the Florida Building Code. They are a means of governing the building process only by showing owners and Contractors the minimum requirements of construction in our state via approval of submitted documents. If your home, or repairs/alterations, were permitted, inspected, and approved…this in no way means they are installed correctly or complaint with the Florida Building Code.
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