Inspections won’t be delayed here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Parish president, legislator say new 2007 law will begin Jan. 1


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – There will apparently be no delay in the implementation of a new state law that will require new home inspections beginning on January 1, 2007.

The Louisiana Legislature passed a law in 2005 that mandates construction inspections throughout the state.

However the cost for those inspections on a single family residence has been estimated as high as $10,000 by one expert, and only as low as $5,000 by local officials and homebuilders.

Either way, the cost will be passed on to the home buyer, at least until the state funds the mandate to allow South Central Planning to begin a six-parish inspection program that can lower the cost for those inspections.

St. John Parish President Nickie Monica said he has no plans to seek a delay in the implementation of the program since he doesn’t believe there is any chance that would happen.

&#8220When they pass a state law, there is no grace period, so I don’t see any way to delay this,” he said. &#8220But I don’t believe this is going to bring our building to a halt here. We just have to work the best we can to get our regional inspection process going, and that depends on getting money from the Louisiana Recovery Authority to help us.”

Even though St. John Parish has been working towards having an inspection process ready to go by the first of the year, Director of Zoning and Planning Adrienne Labat said the parish will not be ready due to a lack of start-up money.

South Central Planning Director Kevin Belanger said they need $2 million from the state to start the program and certify inspectors, and even though the state was supposed to help out with the money, it has yet to come forth.

Now Belanger and Labat agree that March is the absolute earliest the six-parish crew will be ready to do inspections, and thereby keep the cost at a reasonable rate.

Joey Scontrino, the biggest builder in St. John with his company Landcraft Homes, said he was writing to state legislators who represent this area, asking for a delay in the mandate, just until South Central Planning can offer the inspections.

But local State Rep. Bobby Faucheaux told L’Observateur on Monday that there will be no delay in the implementation of the program.

&#8220We are in a special session right now and can only address the issues the governor put on the agenda,” Faucheaux said. &#8220So we can’t delay the inspection process. We did this because it was a way to show insurance companies we were building better houses, and hopefully lower premiums, but I thought the money had been appropriated to help the smaller parishes start this.”

However that is clearly not the case as Belanger said they have been waiting since last year for the money which was promised.

St. John Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Robottom agreed that the lack of money from the state is the problem, and said the parish had done all it could to be prepared.

&#8220We feel like St. John has been trying to help out with the inspections all along,” she said. &#8220We have worked with the six parish deal to keep the inspections much lower to the home buyer, and all along, we have tried to be helpful to make this process start. But we don’t have the $2 million and need the state to provide that for us.”

Without the South Central Planning cooperative, homebuilders and individuals who build their own homes will have to go to third party inspectors to follow the law.

Belanger estimated that could cost as much as $10,000 a house, but Robottom and Scontrino both said they believe the cost would be closer to $5,000 a house.

Still, Scontrino was upset that the very people who needed new homes in this post-Katrina era are now getting hit with more financial problems.

&#8220This is just a terrible deal the way the Legislature put it on the parishes to handle by themselves,” he said. &#8220We can talk about benefits all day that the state is trying to provide, but ultimately this unfunded mandate is hurting the very people who need to get into new homes.”