S. Fla. Claims Being Paid But Contractors Can’t Get Building Permits

January 24, 2006

South Florida homeowners endured Hurricane Wilma, power outages and numerous other inconveniences, and now that their settlement checks have arrived and they can have their roofs repaired, they face another roadblock, it’s impossible to obtain a building permit.

The Miami Herald reports that all the people who need building permits can’t fit into the small windowless waiting area in the Pembroke Pines Building Department. With insurance checks landing in mailboxes across South Florida, local building departments are overflowing. Mothers with strollers wait beside contractors in lines for permits to fix damage wrought by Hurricane Wilma.

Homeowners are also in a race against time. Roofers are booked solid and delays at the building departments are adding to the problem.

”When the rainy season hits, people who couldn’t get their roof done because somebody like me was in here and not out there, the ceilings are going to fall into houses because of leaking,” Paul Frank, manager of Dalmar Roofing, told the Herald as he waited in line in Pembroke Pines.

He had 50 calls last week from customers needing estimates. But he can’t get to them, because he’s tied up at city halls.

In Broward County alone, more than 5,000 homes were severely damaged or destroyed, and thousands of others had lesser damage from the Oct. 24 hurricane.

The wait varies widely among building departments. It was more than two hours in Pembroke Pines, but only 10 minutes in Miami-Dade County. In Pompano Beach, more than 60 people were waiting in line before the building department opened. Fort Lauderdale allowed customers to drop off permit applications and pick them up later, avoiding the wait.

Across the region, however, permit applications saw a large increase. In November and December, Pembroke Pines received nearly four times as many permit applications from roofers as in the two months before the storm.

In Miami-Dade, the number of roofing permits issued increased 62 percent between October and December.

In Lauderhill, permit applications have more than doubled since Wilma. In Pompano Beach, they were up by more than 50 percent.

The result is that many building departments don’t have enough people to handle the flood of customers.

Lauderhill was trying to hire additional workers, but was having trouble finding people qualified to review and approve building plans, even for $60 an hour.

But in Pembroke Pines, City Manager Charlie Dodge, who learned of the long waits from a Herald reporter, said it doesn’t make sense to hire workers for a temporary situation.

That said, an additional clerk will start in Pines this week, filling a vacancy in the department. Last Friday, staff from another city office helped answer the phones in the building department.

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