House passes bill limiting home inspections

Apr 26, 2011

The following article was posted to on April 26, 2011:

House Passes Bill Limiting Home Inspections

By Ryan McCarthy

A bill aimed at helping Keys homeowners keep their downstairs apartments by limiting home inspections is quickly making its way through the state House and Senate.

But whether passage means the risk of losing federally subsidized flood insurance remains unclear.

Drafted by former Lower Keys resident John November, a lobbyist for Marathon-based Botsford Builders, and sponsored by Gainesville-area lawmakers, the bill would stipulate that local governments “may not require” inspections in areas of a home not related to the scope of a building permit application.

House bill 407 was approved overwhelmingly by the state House last Wednesday, 114-2. Its Senate companion, 580, was approved by the Budget Committee on Monday, 20-0.

The Florida Keys Contractors Association backs the legislation because it feels the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s program to inspect homes for enclosures built below the floodplain or without permits scares homeowners away from seeking building permits. That leads homeowners to hire unlicensed contractors, the group says.

State Rep. Ron Saunders, the Democrats’ House minority leader, represents Monroe County. He declined to sponsor the legislation or speak on the floor about it, but voted for it last week.

“I didn’t want to make it a Monroe County issue and that’s why I didn’t speak on the bill. We didn’t want the county to have any adverse effects,” he said.

Saunders also said November assured him the legislation would not affect flood insurance in the Keys. November didn’t immediately return calls for comment, but has said he planed visits with FEMA officials in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

The FEMA inspections are “creating a problem with unlicensed contractors. The reason for the bill was a valid reason; my concern was FEMA yanking our flood insurance as a result of that. Obviously, it would be nice to hear [that won’t happen] from FEMA,” Saunders said.

Lower Keys group Citizens Not Serfs’ main goal has been to kill FEMA’s downstairs-enclosure inspection program. The county has partnered with FEMA in the inspections and been unwilling to jeopardize participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.

FEMA oversees that program and could suspend Monroe from it should the county not comply with the inspection program. The NFIP is seen as critical for homeowners, since private flood insurance is prohibitively expensive and flood coverage is almost always required to qualify for a mortgage.

Local law requires inspections when a property owner applies for a building permit or when a home is sold.

Find this article here: