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Rating the States

An assessment of residential building code and enforcement systems in 18 hurricane-prone states.

Rating the States:

An Assessment of Residential Building Code and Enforcement Systems for Life Safety and Property Protection in Hurricane-Prone Regions

News Release

Full Report

Key Points

STATE-BY-STATE (Rating Scale 0 - 100)

State

Total

Adoption of code,
universality, and
weakening provisions

Enforcement
Officials

Contractor
Licensing

Florida

95

48

22

25

Virginia

95

48

24

23

New Jersey

93

49

23

21

Massachusetts

87

46

21

20

South Carolina

84

45

18

21

Connecticut

81

40

24

17

North Carolina

81

40

22

19

Rhode Island

78

44

19

15

Louisiana

73

48

15

10

Maryland

73

43

15

15

Georgia

66

31

15

20

Maine

64

33

22

9

New York

60

37

23

0

New Hampshire

49

39

0

10

Alabama

18

0

0

18

Texas

18

18

0

0

Delaware

17

4

0

13

Mississippi

4

0

0

4

Florida

Florida (95 points) has a well-developed system for regulation of all aspects of code adoption and enforcement, code enforcement training and certification, and licensing requirements for contractors and subcontractors. Florida has adopted the 2006 International Residential Code. The state is consistent with the wind provisions in the model code, but the Legislature approved legislation that will prohibit the requirement for residential fire sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings and townhomes, as required by the 2009 International Residential Code.

Florida has a mandated program for code official certification and training. The program requires individuals to take code specific courses prior to taking a certification/licensing exam. Continuing education is required, including courses dealing with the residential code. The state does not separately certify inspectors for residential construction inspection. Rather, a single certificate is issued for building code inspectors, which can include multiple codes.

Florida requires licensing of general, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and roofing contractors. Additionally, the license requires passing a licensing examination and obtaining continuing education. Mechanisms are in place enabling the state to discipline a contractor for a variety of violations, including noncompliance with the code.

Code adoption and enforcement - 48
Code official certification and training - 22
Contractor licensing - 25
Total - 95

Virginia

Virginia (95 points) has a statewide mandatory code and enforcement. The state has adopted the 2009 edition of the International Residential Code, but with the sprinkler provisions deleted. Virginia requires mandatory code adoption and mandatory code enforcement statewide. The state does not allow local amendments to the code. Less positively, the state has amended the code to require “engineered” plans in the 110 mph wind region instead of the 100 mph wind region.

Virginia requires code official certification and training, but it is not a prerequisite to employment. Virginia, as well as many other states, allows a code enforcement official to receive “on the job training” prior to sitting for examination for certification. Usually, the inspector is required to receive intense supervision while on the job, and has a limited amount of time to complete course work and the examination. If the required course work and examination are not completed within the stated time period, the temporary certification is lost as is employment.

Virginia licenses general, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and roofing contractors. However, general contractors and roofing contractors are not required to complete continuing education.

Code adoption and enforcement - 48
Code official certification and training - 24
Contractor licensing - 23
Total - 95

New Jersey

New Jersey (93 points) has adopted the 2009 International Residential Code and has a good system in place for code adoption and enforcement. The main deficiency is that the state does not require sprinklers in homes and townhomes by executive order.

New Jersey has a state program for code official certification and training. However, this program is less than optimal because the minimal continuing education requirement is only 15 hours every three years.

With respect to contractor licensing, home builders are only required to register with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. Builders are not required to take an exam to obtain a license, nor do they have a continuing education requirement. Roofing contractors also are required to register with the state, but are not required to take an exam or to complete any continuing education. By contrast, the state has a good system in place for licensing and continuing education of electrical, mechanical, and plumbing contractors.

Code adoption and enforcement - 49
Code official certification and training - 23
Contractor licensing - 21
Total - 93

Massachusetts

Massachusetts (87 points) has adopted the 2009 International Residential Code with Massachusetts amendments; a study commission is looking at the fire sprinkler issue. The state requires mandatory enforcement and does not allow local amendments to the residential code. In addition, the state adopts a plumbing and electrical code.

However, some of the Massachusetts amendments have weakened important wind provisions of the International Residential Code.

In the area of code official certification, the state has a program that includes taking code classes prior to examination and certification, requires continuing education and allows consumers to file complaints against inspectors. Massachusetts does not require certification prior to employment and does not certify inspectors solely for one- and two-family dwelling inspections.

Massachusetts requires licensing of general, plumbing, electrical and roofing contractors, requires licensing candidates to pass an exam prior to licensing, and requires continuing education. However, no licensing is required to perform heating and air conditioning work on one- and two-family dwellings.

Code adoption and enforcement - 46
Code official certification and training - 21
Contractor licensing - 20
Total - 87

South Carolina

South Carolina (84 points) began the process to adopt the 2009 International Codes, but legislation was passed that has prevented the adoption from being completed. As a result, the state has decided to skip the 2009 edition and instead begin to review and adopt the 2012 edition of the International Codes. Currently, South Carolina adopted and enforces the 2006 International Residential Code. Consequently, South Carolina does not require some wind provisions that are in the 2009 edition of the International Residential code – specifically, requirements for wind-rated exterior wall coverings and use of ASTM D 7158 to rate shingles.

In the area of code official certification and training, the state does not require completion of any training classes prior to certification. However, code officials are required to complete the certification process within one year of beginning work as a code official. Also, South Carolina requires a minimum of 24 hours every two years of continuing education.

With respect to contractor licensing, South Carolina requires licensing of general, plumbing, mechanical, electrical and roofing contractors, but does not require continuing education for any of these licensees except electrical contractors.

Code adoption and enforcement - 45
Code official certification and training - 18
Contractor licensing - 21
Total - 84

Connecticut

Connecticut (81 points) has a statewide code and mandatory enforcement, but the state is using an older version (2003) of the International Residential Code and has weakened its wind provisions. Connecticut does not allow local amendments to the code and has adopted a plumbing and electrical code.

Connecticut has a state program for certifying code enforcement officials. This program requires taking code classes prior to certification, becoming certified prior to employment, and continuing education – including continuing education specifically about the residential code. The state also certifies code inspectors for residential inspections.

Although Connecticut has licensing requirements for several construction trades, the state does not require general contractors to demonstrate minimum competency by passing an exam prior to licensing and does not require continuing education. With respect to other contractors, Connecticut does not require mechanical contractors to have continuing education, nor does it require roofing contractors to be licensed. Plumbing and electrical contractors are required to pass an exam prior to licensing and to take continuing education. The state has a system for consumers to file complaints against general, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical contractors, and the state may institute disciplinary action as appropriate.

Code adoption and enforcement - 40
Code official certification and training - 24
Contractor licensing - 17
Total - 81

North Carolina

North Carolina (81 points) has adopted a statewide code (2006 International Residential Code) and mandatory enforcement. The state lost points for having weakened the wind provisions of the International Residential Code, with respect to requirements for wind-borne debris protection and load path requirements in standards for high-wind construction.

In the area of certification and training, North Carolina does not require certification prior to employment and does not require a separate certification for residential contractors.

Other deficiencies include not requiring continuing education for licensed general contractors and not requiring licensing for roofing contractors on residential projects.

Code adoption and enforcement - 40
Code official certification and training - 22
Contractor licensing - 19
Total - 81

Rhode Island

Rhode Island (78 points) has adopted the 2009 International Residential Code and requires enforcement of that code statewide. However, Rhode Island has weakened the wind provisions, specifically allowing partially enclosed design, which weakens opening protection requirements of the code. Additionally, Rhode Island has reduced other wind provisions of the model code.

Rhode Island has a program for code official certification/licensing and it includes code-specific courses prior to certification. Code officials are allowed to begin working prior to certification, but must complete the process within one year. Code officials must obtain 20 hours of continuing education every three years.

In Rhode Island, general contractors are required to be registered, but do not have to take an exam. There is no mechanism for disciplinary action, and general contractors are not required to have continuing education. Plumbing and mechanical contractors are not required to have continuing education, and there are no licensing requirements for roofing contractors.

Code adoption and enforcement - 44
Code official certification and training - 19
Contractor licensing - 15
Total - 78

Louisiana

After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana (73 points) passed state legislation requiring mandatory code adoption and enforcement. The state is using a recent edition of the International Residential Code (2009), and is consistent with the model code for the wind provisions. The state does not allow local amendments to the code. There also are statewide plumbing and electrical codes. Louisiana has enacted legislation that does not allow sprinklers to be required in one- and two-family dwellings and townhomes, as required by the 2009 International Residential Code.

Louisiana has a state program that requires code enforcement official certification; however, there are no mandatory code classes in the certification process.

Louisiana has licensing requirements for general and plumbing contractors, including examination and continuing education. The state does not have mandatory licensing for electrical, mechanical or roofing contractors.

Code adoption and enforcement - 48
Code official certification and training - 15
Contractor licensing - 10
Total - 73

Maryland

Maryland (73 points) has adopted the 2009 International Residential Code, including the fire sprinkler requirement, with very few amendments. However, local jurisdictions are allowed to amend the code, which defeats the goal of uniformity and could weaken wind protections even in the most vulnerable coastal areas.

Maryland also has significant deficiencies in its inspector certification and training system. For example, the state does not have an inspector designation for residential inspectors, does not require code class prior to certification, and does not have a mechanism for consumers to file complaints against inspectors. Continuing education requirements are 15 hours every three years.

Maryland licenses general contractors, but they are not required to take an examination prior to licensing. Plumbing, mechanical, and electrical contractors are also licensed, are required to take an exam, and have mechanisms for disciplinary action. None of the contractor licenses require any continuing education. Roofing contractors are not required to be licensed in the state of Maryland.

Code adoption and enforcement - 43
Code official certification and training - 15
Contractor licensing - 15
Total - 73

Georgia

Georgia (66 points) has a mandatory statewide code (2006 International Residential Code); however, it is up to local jurisdictions to decide whether they will enforce the code. Georgia does not allow weakening amendments at the local level and has adopted a plumbing and electrical code. Georgia has passed a law that prohibits the requirement of residential sprinklers.

Georgia has a program for certification of code officials that does not require code classes prior to certification. Their program requires continuing education, but there is no mechanism for disciplinary action against an inspector by the state.

General contractors, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical contractors are required to be licensed in Georgia. They are all required to take an exam prior to licensing and are required to take continuing education. Each licensing body has a mechanism for disciplining contractors.

Code adoption and enforcement - 31
Code official certification and training - 15
Contractor licensing - 20
Total - 66

Maine

Maine (64 points) has adopted the 2009 International Residential Code without the fire sprinkler requirement. A major gap is that the code does not apply to towns with fewer than 4,000 people, which equates to approximately one-third of the state’s population. The state has adopted a plumbing and electrical code.

Maine has a program for certification of code officials, including classes about the code prior to examination. The state allows individuals to be employed prior to completing the certification process, but the process must be completed within one year. The state requires continuing education, but it is a minimal requirement of nine hours every six years. The state has a certification for residential construction inspectors, and has a mechanism for disciplinary action against inspectors.

Maine requires licensing for plumbing contractors and electrical contractors; no other contractors are required to be licensed. Plumbing and electrical contractors are required to take an exam prior to licensing and disciplinary action can be taken against plumbing and electrical contractors. Electrical contractors are required to obtain continuing education.

Code adoption and enforcement - 33
Code official certification and training - 22
Contractor Licensing - 9
Total - 64

New York

New York (60 points) has adopted the 2006 IRC and requires mandatory enforcement. The state also has adopted a plumbing and electrical code. However, New York City is exempt from the state requirements and has its own building code. Despite the metropolitan area’s hurricane risk, New York City has weakened several important wind protections that are in the state code. At the state level, wind provisions have been weakened to allow partially enclosed design in lieu of the code requirements for opening protection, which is another source of concern.

The state has a program for the certification of code enforcement officials, including code classes prior to examination for certification. Continuing education also is required, and there is a system for disciplinary action for code inspectors. The state allows employment before certification, and does not have a separate certification for residential inspection.

No licenses are required for general, plumbing, mechanical, electrical or roofing contractors; a major gap in regulatory protections.

Code adoption and enforcement - 37
Code official certification and training - 23
Contractor Licensing - 0
Total - 60

New Hampshire

New Hampshire (49 points) has a statewide code (2009 International Residential Code), but does not have mandatory enforcement. Additionally, a 2011 law prohibits adoption of the sprinkler requirement, as required by the 2009 IRC. The wind provisions of the New Hampshire Code are consistent with the model code. The state adopts a plumbing and an electrical code.

New Hampshire has no statewide program to license code enforcement officials. Contractor licensing is required for plumbing and electrical contractors, but no other trades. Plumbing and electrical contractors are required to take an exam prior to licensing, can be disciplined, and are required to obtain continuing education.

Code adoption and enforcement - 39
Code official certification and training - 0
Contractor licensing - 10
Total - 49

Alabama

Alabama (18 points) has no statewide residential code and no enforcement requirements for the select codes that do exist. Because there are no statewide code requirements, there is no state program for certification of building inspectors. There are licensing requirements for general, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical contractors, and requirements for each trade to demonstrate minimum competency by passing a licensing exam. Also, consumers may file complaints about contractors, and licensees are subject to disciplinary action. Continuing education is required for mechanical and electrical contractors.

In November 2011, the State of Alabama provided the Alabama Energy and Residential Board with the authority to adopt a statewide residential code. In addition, a process was created that could lead to approval of the 2009 International Residential Code in the state; however, no mandatory enforcement requirement for local jurisdictions is contemplated in that process. As a result, when a local jurisdiction decides to adopt a residential code after the new system goes into effect, that jurisdiction must adopt the 2009 International Residential Code with Alabama’s amendment and any further local amendments desired. Implementation is expected sometime in 2012.

Code adoption and enforcement - 0
Code official certification and training - 0
Contractor licensing - 18
Total - 18

Texas

There is no statewide code or enforcement in Texas (18 points). However, municipalities may adopt and enforce the 2006 International Residential Code as the residential building code. There is no state program for certifying code enforcement officials or licensing contractors and subcontractors. The only statewide building safety provision currently in place is the electrical code. The Texas Department of Insurance Windstorm Association (TWIA) has adopted windstorm building standards, but they are voluntary requirements that homeowners must meet for the purposes of obtaining windstorm and hail insurance from TWIA.

Code adoption and enforcement - 18
Code official certification and training - 0
Contractor licensing - 0
Total - 18

Delaware

Delaware (17 points) does not have a statewide residential code or any mandatory enforcement, but the state has adopted a plumbing code. The state also lacks a system for code inspector certification and training. Individual jurisdictions must determine their inspectors’ qualifications. Delaware has licensing requirements for plumbing, mechanical, and electrical contractors. Each license requires examination and has mechanisms to discipline contractors. Electrical contractors are required to obtain continuing education. General contractors and roofing contractors are not licensed in Delaware.

Code adoption and enforcement - 4
Code official certification and training - 0
Contractor licensing - 13
Total - 17

Mississippi

Mississippi (4 points) has virtually no regulatory process in place for building codes. Seven counties in Mississippi are required to enforce the wind and flood requirements of the 2003 International Residential Code. Otherwise, here is no statewide code, no mandatory enforcement, no programs or requirements for inspectors, and very few licensing requirements. General contractors are the only trade required to pass an exam prior to licensing and the state has mechanisms to discipline contractors.

Code adoption and enforcement - 0
Code official certification and training - 0
Contractor licensing - 4
Total - 4

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