Panel OKs Relaxation of La. Statewide Building Codes

A Louisiana House of Representatives committee approved a relaxation of the statewide building codes enacted after the 2005 hurricanes, disregarding the objections of the insurance industry.

Insurers applauded when the Legislature approved statewide codes in 2005, just months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The intent was to lessen future property damage from hurricanes and other natural disasters by forcing builders to construct buildings and homes to withstand high winds.

But the codes have also provoked complaints from builders and people renovating homes or building new ones, who say the inspection process is too costly. Those complaints have been loudest from north and central Louisiana, areas not subject to hurricane-force winds.

The House Commerce Committee on approved several bills that would change enforcement of the codes. House members are likely to amend them further during floor debate.

Rep. Gil Pinac, the committee’s chairman, is sponsor of a measure that would make procedural changes to the building code laws, an effort to lower costs by making the inspection process easier.

But others wanted more significant changes. Rep. James Fannin told the committee that the codes might work well in cities, but not for people in rural areas, who he said often pay too much because inspectors are scarce and in high demand.

“One shoe does not fit all across this state,” said Fannin, D-Jonesboro.

Over Pinac’s objections, the panel voted 9-5 to amend his bill to allow residents of 29 north and central Louisiana parishes to sidestep the inspection process by pledging in signed affidavits that the building codes were followed. That provision is similar to a bill sponsored by Fannin.

The committee then amended Pinac’s bill further, to give all 64 parishes the power to allow residents to avoid the building code inspection process by way of affidavits.

Pinac and several other members of the committee said they were uncomfortable with provisions that would weaken the inspection process too much.

“The whole thing about the building codes is based on inspections. If we loosen that up, the whole thing falls apart. That’s what I’m worried about,” said Rep. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

On the Net: House Bills 215, 267, 278, 486 and 704 are posted at