I got a call this morning from a public adjuster wanting to discuss building code coverage.1 In doing some research for her, I came across an article advocating more stringent building codes: Marking 10 Years Since Katrina, Consumer Agency Calls For Stiffer Building Codes. Considering the article in connection to recent conversations I’ve had with public adjusters and general contractors, it made me wonder: do we need better building codes, or simply better enforcement of existing building codes?

Better Building Codes?

The nonprofit group Federal Alliance For Safe Homes (FLASH) recently released a paper calling for putting “innovative disaster resilience policies in place ahead of the next disaster.”2 The paper and article outline six proposals to the current U.S. building code system.

While the six proposals seem long on valid points to increase building quality, safety, and withstanding damage due to disasters, the proposals seem short on two key points as well: funding and enforcement.

Better Enforcement of Existing Codes?

Public adjusters and general contractors often and repeatedly tell me that insurance carriers don’t properly pay building code coverage due to lack of enforcement. Consider the following scenario, a not uncommon occurrence in both residential and commercial claims we’ve handled:

  1. The insurance company acknowledges a roof needs total replacement;
  2. The policy contains adequate building code coverage;
  3. The roof decking also needs replacement due to building code requirements;
  4. The carrier denies paying for roof decking due to a lack of “direct physical damage;”
  5. The PA/GC invokes building code coverage; and
  6. The carrier still denies roof decking payment because the building inspector office does not enforce the building code.
  7. No enforcement = No coverage.
  8. Now what?!?

What Does This Mean For Me?

If you handle claims in a jurisdiction with inconsistent or inadequate building code enforcement, consider taking the issue up-the-food-chain. We’ve seen instances in which the City Attorney and/or City Council have been instrumental in achieving the enforcement that leads to proper coverage. A solution likely exists, so keep striving to find it.

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