Should You Use a Private Inspector?

private-inspectorWe’ve all been there – waiting longer than expected on a plan review or a routine inspection. It happens all too often, especially when there’s an uptick in construction activity. To overcome some of these delays, many states, and municipalities, including Florida and Miami-Dade, allow the use of private, third-party inspectors.

How do you get a private inspector on your job site?

Florida Statutes (§553.791) allow the owner of a building to contract directly with a private provider to furnish building code inspection services. The owner is required to have a written agreement in place with the provider and to notify the local building department at the time of permit application or no less than 7 business days prior to the first scheduled inspection by the local building official or building code enforcement agency.

The notice must include the services to be performed; the name, firm, address, telephone number and fax of each private provider; the provider’s professional license or certification number; a summary of qualifications or resume of the provider; and a certificate of professional liability insurance if that is required by the local building official. As well, the owner must submit an acknowledgment in substantially the form outlined by Florida Statutes.

If after construction has commenced, the local building department isn’t able to provide timely inspections, the owner can elect to use a private provider if notice is given to the building department no less than 7 business days prior to the next scheduled inspection.

In fact, an owner can also have his or her plans reviewed by a private provider.

Who is a qualified private provider?

A private provider is any person licensed as an engineer under Florida Statutes Chapter 471 or as an architect under Chapter 481. As for performing inspections, if the inspection is of a residential addition or alteration limited to 1,000 square feet or less, the term private provider also includes a person holding

a certificate under Part XII of Chapter 468 issued by the Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board.

Is it that simple?

All the private inspector needs to do is inspect the project at each phase of construction required under applicable codes and must provide notice to the local building department of the date and approximate time of each planned inspection no later than 2:00 p.m. the prior business day. The building department may still send one of its inspectors to verify that the private provider is performing all required inspections. Upon completing all inspections at each applicable phase, the private provider shall record such inspection on a form acceptable to the building department and submit this report within 2 business days to the building department. And the private provider needs to prepare and submit a certificate of compliance under oath at the completion of all inspections.

Despite some possible risks associated with an owner or builder hiring its own private inspector (and the potential for fraud), the benefits are obvious when there is a need to keep a project moving on a faster schedule than the local building department can provide.

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