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RE: don't mess with Texas

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-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Kester [mailto:andrew(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 9:44 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: don't mess with Texas

>It sounds like the wild wild west out there, like there are these
>dilapidated, poorly build structures as soon as you leave city limits.

Well, maybe not quite that, but you'd be appalled at some of what I see in
my forensic investigations.

>With no GC license, imagine your liability if something
>went wrong and the GC went missing?

Well, the GC doesn't even have to "go missing." It is not unusual--and I
know one such case right here in my own neighborhood--for a contractor to be
sued for gross negligence or whatever, and simply fold his company, then
resurface a little while later with a different company, same people, same
sh***y (that's "shoddy," for those of you who can't read "splats")
workmanship, etc.

>So if you don't have a building code, and in some cases you do not need a
>permit, why would they get engineering?

Who says they do? Residences here are not typical engineered, and you can
tell by their performance in extreme wind events.

Only the foundations are now engineered, because of our incredibly active
clay soils, and that's only because you can't get a mortgage without an
engineered foundation.

>Just when it is something they
>cannot handle?

In my experience, only when you have an enlightened building owner,
developer or (in rare instances) contractor who insists on engineering.

>Then, do they need signed and sealed plans?

In Texas, only when the residential building exceeds 5,000 square feet, and
then you only need an architect's seal. Which is better than nothing. At
least sometimes.

>Who is making
>sure that these things are getting built according to your plans,

I do, if the owner will pay me for inspection.

>do they have inspectors?

Not outside the city. Not even INSIDE some cities (Bellaire, Texas is a
large town completely surrounded by the City of Houston. You must obtain a
building permit, but they provide NO inspection except for plumbing).

>What about architectural codes like ADA and fire systems, ratings, means of
>egress, etc?

ADA is required, oddly enough, because it's administered at the state level.

>It just seems really, really weird... Like a 3rd world country or

It ain't the third world. It's TEXAS. We stand outside the "world rating
system." "A whole other world," as the travel brochure slogan puts it.

>So, to summarize, if I got it right:


>-No building codes outside of city limits. Counties cannot endorse or
>enforce a building code in unicorporated areas.


>-No contractor licensure requirements (that is crazy if it is true)

Correct. That goes for the guy building the addition to your house as well
as the guy widening twenty-six miles of Interstate Highway 10 west of

>-Some areas thus would not require a permit. A commercial job MAY requir a
>civil/stormwater permit, and that is it.

In some counties, such as Harris (where Houston is located) they require a
Flood Zone Permit for homes located in the flood zone. That's pretty much

>-I have heard first hand from people who have done development work there,
>that there used to not be, or currently is not, a development/zoning board
>for Houston.

That is true. Houston is the largest city in the United States without

>In other words, developers can build willy-nilly wherever they
>want (which they seem to do here even with a zoning board).

Sorta-kinda. There are neighborhood boards, business area boards, etc., that
do enforce certain standards, and that works okay. I'm not all that worked
up about lack of zoning. In Houston they seem to take care of that by
alternate means, and as you say, zoning regulations tend to be a joke
anyway, when you have money to push your wants through.

But the building code "fiasco" here is not to be believed.

One man's eyesore is another man's "free enterprise in action." But one
man's collapsed building is another man's collapsed building.

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