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Will County’s preliminary home inspection code questioned

Will County’s preliminary home inspection code questioned
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 5:33 p.m. CDT

By LAUREN LEONE–CROSS – lleonecross@shawmedia.com
JOLIET — Tom Joseph, a local watchdog for homeowners and real estate agents, is accusing Will County’s Land Use Department of conducting preliminary home inspections beyond the scope of individual permit applications — a practice he believes to be overreaching.

Will County’s preliminary home inspection code questioned
“If someone puts in (an application) for permit work, that’s the work that should be inspected,” said Joseph, who serves as the government affairs director for the Illinois Association of Realtors and the Three Rivers Realtors Association.

Joseph raised concerns earlier this spring to the Will County Board’s Land Use and Development Committee, saying the practice violates a homeowners’ fourth amendment rights.

“We don’t believe that’s the intent of the law,” he said.

But Will County Land Use Director Curt Paddock pushed back against the accusations Tuesday during a meeting of the Land Use and Development Committee. He pointed to the 2012 International Residential Code adopted by the County Board last year.

The code states that “before issuing a permit, the building official is authorized to examine or cause to be examined buildings, structures and sites for which an application has been filed.”

The department does not conduct inspections without the homeowners’ consent, he said.

If a code violation is “in plain sight” during a pre-inspection, the official has a right to cite it as a violation, he said. For example, if someone applies for a permit to put in a new water heater, he said, and the building official notices a live wire sparking while walking down the steps of the basement, that’s fair game.

“Their perspective is ‘You should have had blinders on,’” Paddock said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, committee member Steve Balich, R-Homer Glen, spoke out against the Land Use Department’s interpretation of the code.

“If someone comes and inspects my house, that’s one thing. But when I apply for a permit, the person should be allowed to only inspect what that was for and nothing else,” Balich said. “That’s way, way out of our boundaries.”

Paddock said during Tuesday’s meeting that there’s concern that the Land Use Department is conducting preliminary inspections “triggered by the current or proposed ‘for sale’ status of a property.”

“That’s simply not true,” he said, noting that the only condition triggering pre-inspections is a property owner’s permit application.

But Joseph alleges the department “on three occasions” attempted to or conducted pre-sale home inspections — a program not adopted by the county.

Alternatives were presented at the county’s Land Use and Development Committee Tuesday.

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