Georgia Construction, Bond & Lien Law Blog


Georgia HB 493 Signed into Law Allows Private Inspections on Construction Projects

Posted in Current Legal Issues by Blue Blog on the October 3rd, 2020

Georgia HB 493 Allows Private Construction Inspections

 

The construction attorneys at the Cobb Law Group strive to keep its clients and friends updated on current laws and legislation which impacts Georgia’s Construction Industry.  Today’s article highlight the changes brought about in 2020 House Bill 493 which amends Chapter 2 of Title 8 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to standards and requirements for construction, alteration, etc., of buildings and other structures, so as to provide procedures for alternative plan review, permitting, and inspection by private providers so as to simplify regulations on businesses at the local level.  This article is written by our intern Neel Gurley, and he can be reached neel@cobblawgroup.net

Governor Kemp recently signed into law House Bill 493 which amends the Georgia Code regarding Private Plan Review, Permits, and Inspections. This vital change to Georgia’s law allows construction companies all across the state a new tool for how to carry out these tasks. This act is officially known as the “Private Permitting Review and Inspection Act,” and allows

professional engineers or other professionals to review certain plans related to building and development if certain conditions are met so as to provide for a determination in a timely manner.

Furthermore, the Act also allows counties and municipalities to be able to contract with qualified personnel to implement land disturbance activity ordinances and related matters.

The bill goes on to clearly define some of the terms used in the document such as: complete application, private professional provider, regulatory fee, and regulatory requirements. Each term pertains to making the lives of the construction companies easier by giving them clear regulations and standards that both companies and local governments must meet.

In the bill, it states that in each county or municipality where regulatory fees or requirements are imposed, within its jurisdiction shall establish and make available a schedule of such regulatory fees and requirements. These regulatory fees are permit or application fees required for the government to exercise its police power. These requirements include a list of all documentation related to compliance with such regulatory requirements, including all requirements necessary for the submittal of a complete application. The amount the fees shall be is relative to the work performed by the local government.

This part of the bill pretty much requires that both the contractor and the local government be on the same page and do everything properly by completing all necessary forms and figuring out any costs for services together so that nobody gets their toes stepped on.

The bill also establishes the frames of required for the government to have to give an update to a company trying to submit an application for a construction, alteration, or inspection. The bill states that after an application is submitted, the local building official of a county or municipality has no more than 5 business days to notify an applicant as to whether the submitted documents meet the requirements of a complete application. If the application is deemed incomplete, the applicant shall be provided a written notice identifying the items that are incomplete. The 5 business days’ count towards the 30-day time period for “plan review or inspection.” Upon revision of incomplete items and resubmission, there is another 5-day period to review and notify the applicant whether or not the application is complete.

When an applicant is notified that the application has been accepted after the 5-day period, the county or municipality will notify the applicant as to whether or not the personnel employed or contracted by the governing body will be able to go about their plan review within the 30-day period or provide some form of inspection services within 2 business days of receiving a valid written request for inspection.
The purpose of this part of the bill shows that the governing body has to take initiative into helping the applicant move along with their process as swiftly as possible. It also allows the governing body to perhaps hire a group for inspection that they deem trustworthy and reliable.

One issue of concern is that the municipality requires that the applicant use the employees that they have on retainer for inspection and regulatory action because the applicant could potentially have a better group that they were planning to hire. If the municipality deems that the personnel they have employed cannot provide that regulatory action or inspection services, the applicant then has the option to hire a private professional contractor or inspector at its own expense. If this does occur, the regulatory fees associated with this regulatory action shall be reduced by 50%. So there is a chance that the applicant is able to hire who they want, at a lower overall cost. The only real issue is that the hired party cannot be previously affiliated with the applicant. The applicant can also go ahead and hire someone before the government assigns someone to them, but they must then pay the government a convenience fee. Contractors or inspectors must pre-qualify with the local governing body before they can be reassigned by said governing body.

The private professional provider is required to inspect: footings, foundations, concrete slabs, framing, electrical, plumbing, heating ventilation and air conditioning, as well as any other inspections necessary to determine compliance with all regulatory requirements. After all of these inspections are made, a building permit or certificate of occupancy will be issued by the governing authority of the county or municipality. Only the governing authority is authorized to issue a certificate of occupancy. A plan review report by the private professional provider needs to be submitted within five days of its completion.

This bill also allows local governing bodies to retain the ability to issue a stop-work order when problems such as life safety issues arise. It also keeps the granting of a certificate of occupancy with the local government and not the private provider. The participants involved in passing this bill, both private sector and local government, plan to begin working together to to develop the best practices for the industry under this new law.

This bill is beneficial overall because it helps outline procedures that must be taken by both the governing body as well as the contractor who in this case is the applicant, and it seems to gives some checks and balances as far as accountability goes. The documents they must file when parts of their process occurs are all on a time crunch to help hold the governing body accountable so that everything can be done swiftly.

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