One of the biggest challenges the construction industry has faced over the past few years is the ever-increasing difficulty to have project plans reviewed in a timely manner, with a fair and reasonable critique of the documents for code compliance, and at a reasonable cost. Further frustrations have been experienced in dealing with building departments having a shortage of qualified building inspectors to conduct timely onsite building inspections when the contractor schedules them. This all led Florida to pass legislation allowing for developers to use private, third-party plan review and building inspection services. Florida Statute 553.791 passed in 2019, allowing developers to hire a qualified independent provider to review their plans in place of the traditional route of submitting them into the local building department. It also permits the developers to hire independent providers for building inspections instead of relying on the often overburdened local building department officials.
In addition to giving developers options to get their plans approved and buildings inspected, Statue 553.791 included two very developer-friendly provisions. The first requires the local AHJ’s to provide monetary credits or discounts on the permit fees to developers when using a third-party provider in lieu of Public resources. Though the statue didn’t stipulate a “dollar-for-dollar” credit back to the developers to offset the costs of using the 3rd party service, we’ve seen discounts in the range of 50% – 90% from Florida jurisdictions.
The second important provision in the Statute, and possibly the most important, is the timeframe parameters the building departments must now legally adhere to when a developer uses a third-party plan review service. This removes the guesswork in preconstruction schedules on when a building permit will be in hand, allowing construction to commence. This means a permit in 30-45 days instead of up to 6 months, which we have unfortunately witnessed.
More information on Florida Statute 553.791 can be found at: https://www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2018/553.791
Vice President of the Southeast Region
The Douglas Company
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