County Yields to State in Enforcing Building Codes

September 28, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

DeKalb County currently does not require homebuilders to adhere to any residential building codes, but that will change soon under the Tennessee Clean Energy Future Act.

County Mayor Mike Foster said DeKalb County had three options: to adopt the state requirements for enforcement of residential building codes; to adopt a plan of it's own and hire a building codes inspector; or to opt out altogether. The county commission, Monday night, voted to let the state enforce the codes. "We have the building codes on file, but we feel like we should let the state do it (enforce state required building codes) for a while and if building (construction) picks back up later we can look at it. But for now, we don't want to be in the building codes business. We'll let the state go ahead and initiate theirs", said Foster.

"I think it's (building codes) a good thing, especially around the lake. If you see the horror stories of some contractors, the things they have done to some people, I think you'd agree it's a good thing to have some oversight to make sure the house is structurally correct. They'll tell them about things they can do to make homes more energy efficient and it will generally make the house be built to a certain level so that the person having the house built doesn't get ripped off. It'll be safer, more economical, and it will be a better built house", Foster added

This new state law calls for the adoption and enforcement of a residential building code to one-and two-family residences across the state. The State Fire Marshal Office's code enforcement program will begin in October. In the interim, the State will contract with code inspectors, establish a network of issuing agents where the construction permits can be obtained and finalize the process for payments.

Effective October 1st, the State Fire Marshal's Office will issue residential building permits using a system similar to the electrical inspection program that it presently operates. Owners and licensed contractors will obtain a construction permit from the local issuing agents. Inspectors will then inspect residences during construction to ensure code compliance.

Cities and counties that presently enforce a building code that is current within seven years (the 2003 or 2006 edition of the International Residential Code will qualify) can notify the State Fire Marshal's Office and continue local enforcement. Local codes may be more stringent than the state adopted code. Cities and counties may also choose to have no minimum one- and two-family residential building code and no inspections to ensure quality home construction by a two-thirds opt-out vote of their governing bodies (county commissions).

New State Fire Marshal's Office regulations adopt the 2009 International Residential Code and the 2006 International Energy Code. These building codes will only apply to new construction of residential structures. Nonresidential structures, such as out buildings and unattached garages, are not covered. Renovation of existing structures, no matter how extensive, is also not covered. Sprinkler requirements have not been adopted, although a city or county is free to adopt a sprinkler requirement.

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