Even once started, fees will add to cost for homes

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 11, 2006


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – The new state law involving construction building inspections will raise the costs for new homes in St. John Parish as of 2007 just for the fees involved, although the target date of January 1 to begin those inspections will apparently not be met.

The Louisiana Legislature passed a law in 2005 which ordered all parishes in the state to begin mandatory building inspections for new construction.

Currently in most parishes in the state, there are minimal inspections or none at all for new construction, and homebuyers rely on the reputation of contractors to ensure the quality of the work is done correctly.

The new state law, however, mandates building inspections at a high level, which means everything from slab underground to framing, electrical, plumb-

ing, AC and overall finals will now be conducted by licensed inspectors.

The new inspections will certainly not come without a cost to new homebuyers, and St. John Director of Planning and Zoning Adrienne Labat says she foresees a cost that would equal approximately $1,200 tacked onto a 2,000 square foot home.

The price will vary depending on the size of the construction, with fees set at $200 per 1,000 square feet of new construction, with an additional 35 cents per square foot for plan review.

&#8220That’s going to slow down some of the new construction, even once we get the inspection process in place,” Labat said. &#8220And some people might not be able to buy what they had hoped for. But I don’t expect it to stop what is happening here in terms of the growth.”

Labat said she began going to meetings in the middle of 2006, and &#8220has been working towards the goal” of setting up the inspections, which will go by International Building Code.

Labat said she is still finalizing the details for the way the program will work, and at that point, still has to take the plan to the Parish Council for approval.

&#8220Clearly we still have some steps to get this completely approved and started,” she added.

One of the top homebuilders in the area, Jimmie Gooden of Gooden Homes, said he and other established builders are happy to see the inspections finally come to St. John.

&#8220There are some downsides to them, such as higher costs for homes and a slowdown to get homes built since you have to get the inspections,” Gooden said. &#8220But overall, reputable builders like myself and others see the inspections as a good thing. This will cut out builders who are trying to take shortcuts and not do quality work, and therefore it’s definitely good for home buyers knowing they are getting a quality house.”

St. John will be involved with five other parishes in a cooperative agreement for inspectors, rather than trying to hire their own.

&#8220This is too big a job for our parish, which is one of the smaller parishes, to try and do this alone,” she said.

South Central Planning is heading the inspector program, which will entail contractors or homeowners calling in for the different inspections at each stage of construction.

Labat said they expect to have next day inspections, as long as the deadline is met for calling in the order. Additionally, just like parishes like St. Tammany which have had inspections for years, there will be a &#8220special” that can be ordered to get it done after hours or on weekends, for an additional fee.

&#8220We’ll try as hard as we can to make this run smoothly, but I’m sure there will be problems to start off,” she explained. &#8220But I think we can work through it, and this should help ensure the quality of construction projects here.”

Labat said that one of the reasons the Louisiana Legislature passed the plan, is to show insurance companies that homes will be constructed to certain standards, and hopefully encourage lower homeowner rates.