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Thread: Flip that House rant

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Flip that House rant

    I have been watching this show called Flip That House (click here) on the Discovery Channel. Most of the time it follows the crews around, you get a lot of ideas on how to fix up the house, but then last night, I learned that they started a project and did not get a permit.

    The zoning/building inspector shows up and tells them that they have to stop work. They call the developer and he says NO, just keep working we will worry about the fines later. So they keep going. Then the guy shows up again and tells everyone that if they stay there, he will have them locked up. The attitude that the developer gave him was amazing. It made zoning/building guys look like jerks.

    The developer then called all of the city council members to see of there was any pressure that he could put on the building department to ease up. At this point I was outraged because this kind of thing is real life! I slowed the guy up for a few days, to get all the permits. He walked in with the info and walked out with the permits. It was only a rehab so it should have been easy to pull them ahead of time.

    Anyone else see this show? What are your thoughts on these types of developers who think that if they can get the job done quickly, now one will notice that they donít have any permits?
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Mr. TN told me about the show and you are so right, this does happen all of the time. It is only too bad that the show is basically showing people how to get around the building inspector and pulling permits. Makes the little guy who does do it right only have to go through that much more to do something right.

  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Not to hijack the thread, but another recent trend in "make building/zoning inspectors look like jerks" is the old "let's report a story about a ten year old selling lemonade who was shut down by a mean zoning inspector."

    The question was asked on another message board I participate on - why? A few planners are among the diverse crowd, so we all chimed in. Here was my answer:

    In my zoning administrator days, I never had to shut down a lemonade stand. Every time a story about a closed lemonade stand in some other part of the country made the news, though, the local property rights/anti-zoning crowd would come out of the closet, point at me, and throw around the usual Communist and National Socialist labels. "IT COULD HAPPEN HERE, TOO!"

    In most communities with zoning, a lemonade stand would be technically illegal. Why? It's a retail business on a residential property. Zoning codes usually allow liited garage sales, and some home businesses. However, those home businesses usually can't be retail in nature, with unscheduled drop-in customers.

    I don't know a zoning administrator or code enforcement officer who would go out of their way to shut down a lemonade stand; if they see one, the fact that it's illegal probably doesn't even cross their mind. What usually happens, though, is that a busy-body neighbor -- usually elderly -- or a subdivision HOA official will call to complain, or someone with a commercial lemonade or shaved ice stand set up in a parking lot somewhere will call for equity in enforcement when they're busted for operating without a business license. A zoning administrator or code enforcement officer isn't shutting down lemonade stands because he/she is a cruel, heartless soul; it's because the guy operating an unlicensed commercial lemonade stand said "Why don't you go after the lemonade stand those kids have in front of the Tudor house on Red Deer Trail?", and he's trying to keep the city from being sued.

    I did have to enforce some benign violations when others called for equity in enforcement. In one city, the man that ran the portable sign rental business complained that he needed sign permits, but the people with temporary fireworks stands, Christmas tree lots and shaved ice stands didn't get them. As a result, I had to make people submit sign plans and get permits for signs that would be displayed for a temporary business that would be gone in a couple of weeks. Very petty, yes, but it raises very serious legal problems if it can be shown that the zoning laws are being enforced unfairly.

    (Fortunately, the portable sign guy went out of business, and they're not a thing of the past there; I think they're now banned in that community.)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Yep, saw that one, and complained to my husband all night!! I actually quite like that developer, from seeing other epidsodes, but he was a jerk on this one. He basically came out and said he was too busy to have to deal with beauracracy. Well, if he would have followed the rules to begin with he wouldn't have received a stop work order, and would have saved time in the long run.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    I saw it. I like the way that he would just rather "pay a fine" than do things properly. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. In all the scenes and build up to the renovation/construction their was no mention of permitting. I just knew it was coming. That would have been cool if the main guy made the crew keep working the second time and had him or a few of them haled away to jail. But even with the shut down they got the house done on schedule and made out pretty well. Didn't they fetch 550K for the house when it was done?
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    We Don't Need No Stinkin' Permits.

    Wow that is bad when that is the episode title.
    http://www.aetv.com/flipthishouse/ep...=14&submit.y=7
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I just e-mailed the producers of the show to inform them that I was not going to watch the show anymore, not shopping at any of the store owned by the sponsor, and contacting Planners and Zoning Officers across the country encouraging them to do the same, unless they show the contractor pulling the correct permits.

    So I post it here!
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    I just e-mailed the producers of the show to inform them that I was not going to watch the show anymore, not shopping at any of the store owned by the sponsor, and contacting Planners and Zoning Officers across the country encouraging them to do the same, unless they show the contractor pulling the correct permits.

    So I post it here!
    I doubt they are going to care, though

  9. #9
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    I just e-mailed the producers of the show to inform them that I was not going to watch the show anymore, not shopping at any of the store owned by the sponsor, and contacting Planners and Zoning Officers across the country encouraging them to do the same, unless they show the contractor pulling the correct permits.
    While I wholeheartedly agree with you, it's probably not going to do a bit of good. In fact, the phrase "No publicity is bad publicity" (or something to that effect) comes to mind.
    Quite frankly, I have never seen the show, but now that I'm aware of the situation (and the fact that the episode is airing again next week) makes me want to sit down and watch this episode -- [even] knowing that it will make me mad! And if you've emailed other planners around the US, it's more likely to have given the show more advertising than done the damage you were intending.
    I hate that it works that way!!!
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    The key here is to watch the credits, find out who the supplying companies are and send them an email as well, explaining that as a planner and a person who in the process of renovating/building/buying, you will regretfully not be using their products as they support a show/enterprise that insists on flouting the law. Hit the show whee it really hurts them, in the free stuff they get.

    if you get a response from the supplying company brushign you off, ask them if they would support a show that condones DUI/littering/criminal trespass/soft drug dealing/adult pron distribution etc.... (all are supposed to be victimless crimes like building permit infractions)
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Dammed house flippers are wrecking my neighborhood. they are coming in, buying up all the houses, sinking $$$ into them (good) but then selling them to landlords (boo hiss) who run their properties from far away.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    This Old House, the grandfather of all of these home improvement shows, would occassionally show the process of getting permits or working with a local historic preservation commission.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    This just feeds on the national feeling that what a person does with their property is their own #@$^ business and no bunch of worthless lazy gubermet should shove their commie rules down your throat. I'm sure the producers knew exactly how this was going to look and that all the joe sixpacks out there was going to cheer for the developer.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  14. #14
    Not only permits. I have been functioning as the code enforcement for our town for about two months now and after the council voted to have me enforce the ordinance on signs as written, one of the major realtors in our town moaned and complained so I was instructed to back off until the ordinance is revisited. Wish I had that kind of clout!!!

  15. #15
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I was working this summer in development services in a nearby town and I can empathize completely. I did everything from answering telephones to scheduling all eight of the inspectors to reviewing, checking, and issuing building permits to dealing with zoning and OCP inquiries and irate developers, etc etc.

    One thing I have learned: developers are their own worst enemies. We're talking about really stupid people!

    The classic situation is the developer booking his foundation pour before he can get his forms inspected, and then charging up to the mayor's office when we tell him to piss off after he demanded a forms inspection on a few hours notice. This happened almost daily.

    Or the builder that told his client they could move in the day of the occupancy permit being granted, despite the fact that the Land Registry office closes at 2pm and our inspectors (on a new house) are very thorough and can easily spend four hours on one SFD for a final/occ inspection. This all apart from the fact that there was no guarantee the dwelling would even pass!

    My favourite, though, is the fellow that had been failing fire inspections for ten years because he had outstanding, active building permits. So surprise suprise he comes running back to us after the fire department decides to start charging for failed inspections. The last time the file had been touched was 1997 and that was to flag it as trouble - the last solid activity dated to 1995. He had constructed a bit of an enclosed space within his tiltup commercial industrial warehouse unit and had committed all the sins in the book for building code fire violations. This situation was made especially more interesting because the unit had ONE exit door as a result of him welding the rear door closed. Finally, to take the cake, the ENTIRE warehouse area was stacked with five feet of printouts with only a narrow winding path thru them. Needless to say our inspectors failed it and the fire inspector failed it and he called them both assholes and a few other things were exchanged and long story short I believe occupancy has been revoked and a police escort is now required for our inspectors to enter (all at the expense of Mr. Temper).

    *sigh*

    But then there are the good stories, such as the case of an elderly British ex-pat who decided he wanted to build an ensuite bathroom as well as a few other modifications. He came in for the permits and had all the proper drawings, and was so friendly and pleased that he said we would be "fit for the Queen's building department."
    Last edited by abrowne; 05 Sep 2005 at 5:20 AM.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    My... the world has gone mad... Discovery Channel airing a show in which something illegal was made, is quite shocking for me... Besides, it's quite wrong to air such a program and specially if the title was "we don't need no stinkin' permits" That just throws legality out of the window, and practically encourages jerks to do the same and well, and then we'll have Stan complaining that nobody respects him and people do whatever they want, and don't care to violate the rules and laws...

  17. #17
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    HGTV in Canada (Home and Garden TV) has an awesome show called Holmes on Homes, where this guy goes in to help people who've been screwed over by their contractors. His overarching, oft-repeated message to homeowners is "Get a permit. If your contractor tells you you don't need a permit, get a new contractor." I have all kinds of non-planner friends who watch the show and now repeat that mantra. (Doesn't hurt that John Holmes is a beefcake!)

    http://www.holmesonhomes.com/

    Of course, Mr. S and I are renovating our kitchen right now, and our designer makes out like it's the biggest hassle in the world that we have to arrange for a couple of inspections for our permit process.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by smilie
    (Doesn't hurt that John Holmes is a beefcake!)
    Its Mike Holmes on the HGTV show. John Holmes was a completely different kind of beefcake

  19. #19
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    To a certain extent you have to realize that building permit requirements can be quite preposterous. The IBC and the UPC require permits for things as simple as replacing a new sink or toilet or replacing electrical outlets. In some jurisdictions fees are charged for these "permits" and the permit itself may require some amount of time rather than being issued over the counter.

    Some planning and building departments are so mismanaged that even finding out whether you need a permit for small jobs can take forever. One planning department I know of has a nasty habit of not returning phone calls and requiring you to wait for typically a minimum of 4 hours to talk to someone just to find out whether a permit is required.

    So in some instances I do not blame people one bit for not getting a permit.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    I worked on a shopping center development that required more than 1,000 permits. Not only did we have to pay for the permits, we had to pay overtime to the inspectors to carry them through their self-created bureaucracy. Another project in Boston required permits from 23 agencies, plus "donations" extracted by countless community groups, including the Little League. My boss went to Boston to present the check on opening day - they let him throw out the first pitch.

    Planners don't realize how much of a developer's budget is dedicated to architects, engineers, lawyers, and cost of carry related only to the permit process.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    Planners don't realize how much of a developer's budget is dedicated to architects, engineers, lawyers, and cost of carry related only to the permit process.
    Actually most of us do, as the majority of the development industry makes a big about how much they've spent on those other professionals.


    Just remember that in most jurisdictions, that if you get a permit and the inspector signs off on the work then the municipality is ultimately responsible for any problems that occur in the future. Pretty cheap non ending insurance I'd say.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    Planners don't realize how much of a developer's budget is dedicated to architects, engineers, lawyers, and cost of carry related only to the permit process.

    Do you here that? What is that playing? I know its not the world's smallest violin, but that tune sounds familiar.

    If I had a dollar for everytime a developer said that, or a dollar for everytime a consultant said "I know enough to be dangerous", I could quit and start a sanctuary for abused tunas.

    Heads roll when I ask for a traffic study, when it is required by code. Then there are the people who turn in crap traffic studies saying that they don't need to mitigate any of the effects from the project, but cry when I tell them they do. I don't run a seperate model of the proposed project for fun you retards. Oh, and they really get urked when I tell them that sidewalks are required.

    If developers realized how many crappy ass site plans (including their own) that public sector planners have to review, then maybe they'd stop bitching about the length of the process.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator
    If developers realized how many crappy ass site plans (including their own) that public sector planners have to review, then maybe they'd stop bitching about the length of the process.
    I wish I had a dollar everytime a developer paid me to create a crappy ass site plan. (wait, they do pay me to create crappy ass site plans). I tell them in the beginnig what they will be able to get variances on. They will need sidewalks, curb and gutter; no open ditches, no oil and chip streets, etc., etc. They won't listen to me, they think somehow, the rules will be different for them.

    I make sure whoever is reviewing it knows its the developer wanting these variances not me. I make sure to point out all proposals that don't meet city/state standards. This greatly speeds up the review process because I can usually get a NO on the the spot.

    Sometimes the developer wants to fight the variances all the way to the top, so we can get rejected by the review staff, the zoning board and the city council. Those are my favorite because after you piss everybody off with your crappy ass site plan, they really pick your second submittal apart. Then we really get to rack up design fees.

    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    Planners don't realize how much of a developer's budget is dedicated to architects, engineers, lawyers, and cost of carry related only to the permit process.
    We have a saying at our office: Nobody has the time/money to do things right, but they have the time/money to do things twice.

    Off-topic:
    you get the violin chick's phone number??

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