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How to handle building codes and violations

If you own business or residential property in Florida, you may think that because you own the property, you can build and develop it as you please. Picking out just the right space for your business or family can be difficult based on your needs. You may have a vision for the property that just a few renovations can fix, but making it just right might be easier said than done.

Having the ability to construct a home or building on your property to your exact wishes sounds like a utopia to many people, but it is often not reality. The way you construct your property could create a negative externality or moral hazard for others. Therefore, the city, state and federal government each play a role in shaping building codes for business and residential property.

Building codes may include guidelines such as:

  • How close you can place buildings or landscaping features to the street or another person's property.
  • The type or use of public easements on a property such as sidewalks or beach front.
  • The accessibility of a building including ramps, elevators and doors to accommodate disabled patrons.

To many people, building codes seem like micromanagement and add to the growing costs of owning property. However, the law often serves a distinct purpose in protecting the property rights of others and to serve the interests of public safety and inclusion.

A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania, one of the country's eight Ivy League schools, examined the effectiveness of state building codes in Florida. Researchers found that property owners who constructed new buildings and kept them up to code benefited in the following ways:

  • Up to $10,000 less in financial or property loss after a natural disaster.
  • Fewer insurance claims, resulting in lower premium costs.

Communication is key to fixing violations

Even if you understand the purpose and benefits of building codes, you still may be unaware that your property is in violation and how to correct it. Although fixing code violations can be frustrating, the good news is that most cases are handled at the local level, and legal help is available in fixing them.

Broward County encourages business and residential property owners who receive a code violation to:

  • Communicate questions or concerns about a violation.
  • Ask for clarification or an extension to address the violation.

If you are aware of building codes and how to address a violation you can put yourself in a better position to protect your business, home and personal property rights.

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