Third party inspectors busy since city permits shakeup

Updated: Mar. 4, 2020 at 3:12 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Independent, non-government, inspectors say business has picked up since a shake up in the New Orleans permits department led to the elimination of six inspectors.

A third party inspection system was set up to speed inspections after Katrina, and contractors say it's now, more useful than ever.

If you came to city hall today to deal with the permit department or check on an inspection you were out of luck.

The office is closed on Wednesday's through the end of August, and that’s not good news for contractors trying to get projects approved.

"I've been doing this for over 20 years, and in the past you had no choice but to call the city," said contractor Wayne Erdman.

But that’s tougher than ever, since the permits department lost six inspectors, who were either removed, laid off or re-assigned in the wake of a FOX 8 Lee Zurik investigation, on the inspection process for the hard rock, prior to it’s collapse.

"We'll do whatever we can to make the projects come to fruition, but many problems, from the municipal side, can slow a project," said Jon Luther, with the Greater New Orleans Homebuilders' Association.

To keep projects moving forward, it seems that an increasing number of contractors are now pulling from a list of dozens of state fire marshall-approved third party inspectors, which contractors pay for.

One of the leading third party inspectors in the region, says they have seen a business uptick, in part because of the shortage of city inspectors. And many contractor say, 'no problem'.

“I will always use a third party inspector, it may cost, but i don’t have to wait,” said one contractor who asked not to be identfied.

Contractors say there are many advantages to using a third party inspector. Mainly they say, they can avoid scheduling problems like the one occurring right now, with the city permits office completely dark and shut down due to the cyber attack.

"They can get out there, and get it done, and they seem more proficient with codes, and what's going on," said Erdman.

The state approved the use of third party inspectors, 15 years ago.

"After katrina, we knew that different municipalities, would be short of personnel," said Luther.

Now, those third party inspectors are finding plenty of work, as the city moves to hire at least a half dozen new inspectors.

Prices for third party inspections depend on the size of the project, but begin at around 100 dollars. Many contractors say even if the city fills the current vacancies, they will still opt to use third party contractors, instead of city inspectors.

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