Local merchants support current building codes

Published 7:39 pm Friday, December 28, 2007

A group of local businessmen, including bankers, mortgage lenders, insurance agents and contractors, have joined together in support of the county’s building codes.

Ted Musgrove, a State Farm Insurance agent, said in an interview Thursday that the group has held one meeting to discuss the building codes and several individuals have contacted the supervisors-elect with the group’s concerns.

The group was formed in response to a recent meeting conducted by the incoming board of supervisors concerning possible changes in the current building codes

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“We’re not an official coalition. We’re just people interested in keeping the codes in good order and good shape. It’s nothing formal. Some of the others have contacted the supervisors to let them know about our concerns about possible changes in the inspections and the codes,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove said one reason the insurance agents are supportive of the codes is because of the effect a change in codes could have on future insurance premiums.

“In general, insurance agents support enforcing the codes that have been developed…. When Katrina hit, insurance companies began gathering information to develop premiums for the coastal areas. If they receive information that codes are not being enforced or are ineffective for an area, it could affect the premiums for that area,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove said some changes in the codes may be warranted, but that the codes should not be modified so much as to be ineffective.

“We don’t want to water them down. We just would like to see them made user-friendly…. You can make them user-friendly without while keeping the original intent of the codes,” Musgrove said.

Local contractor Charles Lee, who is a member of the board of directors of the Pearl River County Home Builder’s Association, agreed.

“We want basic building codes. The state of Mississippi has minimum requirements for ICC certification…. We’re asking that the board of supervisors not go below those minimum requirements…. We want to keep the quality (of the codes)… We don’t want them watered down to where they are weak,” Lee said.

Lee explained that building codes are in place to provide standards of construction to ensure that contractors do quality work and to protect the homeowner.

“They give standards for things such as drainage ditches, sewage disposal, lot sizes and thickness of asphalt…. Also, to be an insured, licensed builder in the state, we have to build homes according to the codes. If a homeowner hires an unlicensed or uninsured builder, he or she is taking a risk,” Lee said.

Musgrove said that from an insurer’s viewpoint, the codes are in place to ensure that homes are built structurally sound.

“For example, if wiring is not correctly installed, you could possibly have a fire. If plumbing is not correctly installed, you could possibly have water damage. All these things cost money to the insurance companies…. Having the codes helps to ensure that claims come from other sources such as product failure, rather than faulty construction,” Musgrove said.

Lee said he agrees that some aspects of the codes might seem extreme at first glance, but that citizens should look at the bigger picture.

“For example, yeah some of the fees may be high… but they may be justified…. I think 12 to 16 inspections are a lot, and they hold the job up sometimes. It would be nice if they could be cut down to four or six, but can they? I don’t know. That’s something to be looked into,” Lee said.

Lee said that while the building codes may seem like a hindrance, that in the long run, they benefit homeowners, contractors, insurance agents and mortgage companies.

“They generally may be restrictive, but the house will end up holding its value longer…. Insurance companies want to insure homes that are structurally sound. Mortgage companies want houses that if they have to repossess them, they won’t fall apart. The homeowner wants a home that is built well, that they don’t have to pay to repair all the time, and the contractors want eyewitnesses that they are doing a good job. It’s easier to solve problems if you know things are done right,” Lee said.