Building Codes: Better Codes or Better Enforcement?

Advise & Consult, Inc. | August 25, 2015

Building codes have often been defined as the lowest (easiest, cheapest) possible accepted way of completing a particular construction task.  Obviously money is one of the factors – it always is, and that doesn’t figure to change any time soon.  But, do we need to raise the bar on the current building codes or just enforce the building codes that we currently have?

Federal Alliance For Safe Homes (FLASH) is a nonprofit group that recently released a paper calling for putting “innovative disaster resilience policies in place ahead of the next disaster.”1  This paper outlines six proposals to the current U.S. building code system.  These six proposals, while valid in increasing building quality, safety and withstanding disaster damage, fall short in two main areas: funding and enforcement.

Phillip Sanov recently posted this question – here is an excerpt:

Better Enforcement of Existing Codes?

Public adjusters and general contractors often and repeatedly tell me that insurance carriers don’t properly pay building code coverage due to lack of enforcement. Consider the following scenario, a not uncommon occurrence in both residential and commercial claims we’ve handled:

  1. The insurance company acknowledges a roof needs total replacement;
  2. The policy contains adequate building code coverage;
  3. The roof decking also needs replacement due to building code requirements;
  4. The carrier denies paying for roof decking due to a lack of “direct physical damage;”
  5. The PA/GC invokes building code coverage; and
  6. The carrier still denies roof decking payment because the building inspector office does not enforce the building code.
  7. No enforcement = No coverage.
  8. Now what?!?

What Does This Mean For Me?

If you handle claims in a jurisdiction with inconsistent or inadequate building code enforcement, consider taking the issue up-the-food-chain. We’ve seen instances in which the City Attorney and/or City Council have been instrumental in achieving the enforcement that leads to proper coverage. A solution likely exists, so keep striving to find it.


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