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Private provider inspection dilemma

August 25, 2017
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Mr. Feichthaler:

I have owned commercial land for several years in Cape Coral and finally decided to build a building to rent out. I chose a general contractor and wanted it done ASAP. I had heard that the city of Cape Coral takes a long time to make inspections during construction, so I decided to use a private provider. They inspected the slab, structure and everything else through to completion. The city has now come out for fire inspection, and told me the private provider was not registered with the city, and that the entire building would need to come down, and even the slab would need to be removed! This doesn't seem possible.

- Jennifer B.

Dear Jennifer:

This is a terrible situation, and I am so sorry you find yourself in it. Historically, plans review and inspections were solely done by city Building Department staff. Around 2005, Cape Coral began allowing private providers to inspect and approve building plans. However, there are many requirements that the private provider must meet. Notably, the city's Building Department must be notified that a private provider will be used when the permit is pulled, and full plans must be provided. The city must also be notified when the inspections will take place. It sounds like some or all of those requirements may not have occurred here. The private provider must also be a licensed engineer or architect. Certificates of occupancy or use are still issued by the city, once the private provider submits the forms, including a certificate of compliance with state and local building codes.

The Department of Community Development, which includes the Building and Code Compliance Departments, are there to ensure that houses and buildings built in our city meet state and local codes. In situations where the private provider has not fulfilled the obligations of the statute, the city may not be able to confirm that the work was done safely or effectively. This is likely the situation you are in today, as the city has effectively stopped work on your building.

Based on the information you have provided, it is imperative you determine exactly why the city has taken this position, and what steps the private provider may have missed. You also may want to seek legal counsel specific to this matter, as your losses and liability could be significant, and your builder or private provider may bear responsibility as well.

You mentioned the whole reason for your decision to use private providers was a perception of delays by the city. My experience with inspections over the past 15 years does not support that conclusion. They are efficient and timely in their responses generally, although, like any organization, there are times where inspections could be delayed due to heavy demand. My advice to anyone considering using a private provider is to make sure they have a track record with the city and to confirm they have a full knowledge of the codes governing them.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continued his service to the community through his chairmanship of the Harney Point Kiwanis Club KidsFest from 2011-2015, which provides a free day of fun and learning to thousands of Cape Coral families, and funds numerous scholarships. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 14 years, and they have four children together. Recently, he earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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