Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

31 August 2008

Mandatory County Code Inspections -- Being Outside the City Limits No Longer Enables Faulty Construction

Big changes are in effect for all homebuilders and remodelers who build in the unincorporated areas of the state. As of September 1, 2008, all homes constructed in unincorporated areas, or areas not subject to municipal inspections, must undergo a minimum of three inspections to ensure building code compliance.

Legislation was passed in 2001, making the International Residential Code (“IRC”) the municipal residential building code in the state. Then, in 2003, the Texas Legislature mandated that all homes in the state, including those in the unincorporated areas, be built to IRC standards. Finally, last session saw the passage of legislation requiring that all homes in the unincorporated areas, as well as areas without
municipal inspections, must be inspected for code compliance beginning September of
this year.

A minimum of three inspections will be performed by a third party inspector, or Fee
Inspector, and must occur at the following stages of construction:

1. foundation, prior to the placement of concrete;
2. framing and mechanical systems prior to being covered with sheetrock or other
interior wall covering; and
3. final inspection when the home is completed.

The builder/remodeler is responsible for contracting with the Fee Inspector, which
includes the following pool: (1) a licensed engineer; (2) a registered architect; (3) a professional inspector licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission—a TREC
inspector; or (4) a third-party inspector approved by the Texas Residential Construction Commission (“TRCC”)—a TRCC code inspector.

It is important to note that the builder/remodeler may use the same or different Fee Inspector for the three required inspections, and that the builder/remodeler, has the ability to hire the Fee Inspector of his choice and is not forced to use any one category of Fee Inspectors.

The TRCC will create a unique numbering system using a builder’s registration number
for all construction subject to the new inspections. This number will be used to track the inspections. The fee inspectors will electronically report the completion of an inspection using the unique number and receive a verification document showing the inspections have been satisfactorily completed. The purpose of this document is to show that the home has passed these required inspections so as not to hold up closings.

Within 30 days thereafter of the registration of the home, the homeowner and builder will receive an official "Certificate of Completion."

For a remodel, the inspections will only be required if necessary based on the scope of work. The applicable building code will be the building code in effect for the area, as currently mandated by the TRCC Act. The applicable building code for residential construction located in an unincorporated area not in a city’s ETJ is the IRC as adopted and amended by the county seat of the county in which the construction is located. If the county seat has not adopted and/or amended the IRC, the applicable building code is the IRC as it existed on May 1, 2001. The applicable building codes as described above do not constitute a change in the rules or the statute.

Inspection records and documents will not be turned over to the TRCC by the inspector or builder. However, the TRCC will conduct random audits of the inspection records, and builders must maintain those records for a minimum of five years.

After publishing the proposed rules on the subject and making some amendments to them
based on formal Texas Association of Builders (“TAB”) comments, the TRCC has
adopted the final Fee Inspector rules. To see a copy of the formal rules, please visit the Commission’s website at:

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers