Officials want faster disclosure of building flaws


A scathing audit and public-safety concerns loomed like a flawed high-rise as Clark County commissioners wrestled with how far to go in toughening codes for building inspections.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to adopt most of the measures proposed, but they wanted more options for motivating building owners to report construction defects promptly.

The codes that passed will lay the groundwork to establish more stringent oversight and a 20-person investigative team in the wake of the Kessler Report's stinging critique of building inspections, officials say.

Commissioners were given a list of choices for how to treat property owners who disclose -- or fail to disclose -- building flaws.

A couple of commissioners balked at creating a rule to require owners to disclose defects within 45 days or be slapped with harsher penalties. They argued that it would discourage owners from coming forward.

"Why would you ever want to have a deterrent for self-disclosure?" Commissioner Bruce Woodbury said.

Commissioner Chip Maxfield agreed, saying that someone who buys a building may inherit hidden problems and not discover them until later.

"The worst thing the government can do is take away any incentive to correct what is inappropriate," Maxfield said.

But Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani argued that giving an owner unlimited time also erases any motivation to come clean. She said the county shouldn't come across as too lax.

"I think the general public is tired of hearing there was no complaint filed," Giunchigliani said. "Our job is public safety."

Commissioner Rory Reid sided with her. If owners are given a set time to report a defect, they're more likely to do so, he said.

Reid suggested that staff come back in two weeks with more options for time limits, penalties and incentives. His fellow commissioners agreed.

Meanwhile, the new codes that will go into effect in mid-April will increase the fine for doing commercial building work without a permit to as much as $50,000. The maximum fine for non-permitted residential work will be $4,000.

Resorts must pay a $750 yearly inspection fee. The code now calls for inspectors to go through 20 percent of rooms in a resort each year until the inspection is completed in five years.

Life-safety checks must be done at multi-story residential buildings every two years.

These codes enable the county to form its 20-person investigative team at an annual cost of $4 million.

"We need to restore the credibility of the building department after the Kessler Report," Reid said. "This is a good first step."

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or (702) 455-4519.

 

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