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Friday, 22 July 2005
San Antonio Building Inspection Records in Shambles
Keeping up with the Joneses

Mr. & Mrs. Jones closed on a new home November 18, 1994.  Soon after moving in, they began noticing problems.  After one year of failing to receive a response from the builder, Prestige Homes, Mrs. Jones, went to the San Antonio Building Inspection records to review the inspections made on their home.  

The records showed that their home had failed the final inspection on November 17, the day before they closed.  Shocked at what she found, Mrs. Jones, with records in hand, proceeded to the Director, Gene Camargo.   According to Mrs. Jones after showing the records to Mr. Camargo, he simply stated: "I guess your house fell through the cracks.  You'll have to sue the builder."  After nearly five years and with no help from the city, the builder has just completed some repairs, but not all Mrs. Jones continued. 

The question is if the house failed the final inspection, then how did the builder get an electrical meter from City Public Service,Mrs. Jones asks?  Even more frightening is that the records indicate there was never an Electrical Permit issued.  According to Mrs. Jones when they  purchased their home, it came with an extended warranty.  However, as they were to learn much later, the warranty company declined coverage on the house due to failed inspections and refunded the money to Prestige, who never notified the Jones's. 

Records Indicate Lack of Permits and Inspections

A recent review of  Building Records shows this is not an isolated or unusual case and that many homes indeed are keeping up with the Joneses.  According to City records, house after house is missing inspections and permits.  Whole streets with homes built without permits.  Some homes have permits for swimming pools, that have no inspections or have failed inspections and NO PERMITS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE HOUSE. 

The majority of addresses were randomly selected simply by driving around from one subdivision to another and jotting down addresses.  Others were chosen because home owners were having problems with their homes and unable to get the attention of their builders.

How has this been allowed to happen?  Mr. Carmargo blames a computer change over in 1994.  Twelve addresses were provided to Mr. Carmargo for review, where records indicated missing inspections and permits.   Mr. Carmargo confirmed eight (8) of the twelve (12) were correct, thus confirming the missing inspections and missing permits for eight (8) homes.

Records Show Pattern of Violations

Many homeowners have complained about sidewalks and driveways moving and cracking.  The reason could be because the City does not inspect sidewalks and driveways.  Automatic approval is given when the permit is issued.  Builders have almost discontinued obtaining permits for sidewalks and driveways all together.

The records show that there is a pattern of missing inspections and failure to obtain permits. City records show that home builder, Gordon Hartman Homes, routinely failed to close out the Building Permit and many times the Mechanical and Electrical Permits were open as far back as 1994 because of failed inspections.
City records also indicate one subdivision that was built by Pulte Homes and Ryland Homes failed to get Electrical Permits.  Of 28 houses on one street only one had an Electrical Permit and 13 had NO PERMITS AT ALL.

A review of the records of a David Weekly subdivision revealed similar results.  No Building Permits, No Electrical, etc., and if permits were obtained many are left open, indicating failed inspections or no inspections. 

Listed in alphabetical order are some of the home builders that have taken advantage of the lax building code enforcement, according to City Records: 
  • Aspen Homes 
  • Highland Homes
  • Brookshire Homes 
  • Kaufman & Broad Homes
  • Centex Homes 
  • Pulte Homes 
  • Continental Homes 
  • Prestige Homes
  • David Weekly Homes 
  • Ryland Homes
  • Gordon Hartman Homes
  • A Building Inspector is a Law Enforcement Officer

    Building Inspector can write citations, better known as ticket, just like a police officer does for speeding and other traffic violations, which is a Class C Misdemeanor.  A Building Code Violation is also a Class C Misdemeanor, however punishable by a greater fine of up to $500.00 per day.  The City collected in excess of $21 million dollars last year for Class C Misdemeanors.   However, the records department of Municipal Court does not indicate any of the Class C Misdemeanors was for Building Code Violations.

    In a report provided to Home Owners for Better Building, dated August 31, 1999,  the City reported that in 1997 only 10 cases were filed which resulted in only 8 fines for Building Code Violations.  In 1998, cases increased to 28 cases filed and resulted in a record high of 12 fines.  Thus far in 1999 a record high of  72 cases have been filed resulting in only 8 fines.  There are no indications that these cases were filed against new Home Builders, but rather it is believed they were filed against  Home Improvement Contractors and Owners of Hazardous Buildings. 

    All indications are that it is very easy to build a home in San Antonio with out any building permits or fear of law enforcement.  When asked about writing a citation, one building inspector stated he has seen an example once, but in fourteen years with the city he had never issued one. 
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