So I have my adopted code, gone to training, and now I am ready to start enforcing the code. Things go well for a couple weeks as I struggle through the administration and enforcement of the code. I find that I spend a lot of time looking through the code book to make sure I am prepared at time of inspection. Its 3:00 in the afternoon and I go into my last business inspection for the day, where the contractor wants to argue everything including the key box. I keep my cool although I really want rip this guys head off. What do I do? If I was a police officer, and I had pulled this person over for speeding, I am certain that the first time a violation is found a ticket is written (or maybe a warning if you are nice).
One key aspect for inspectors is the ability to read people and provide different techniques as it relates to enforcement. I may try to be a diplomat and sell code enforcement. I could also try to be an authoritarian and demand that our way is met. The ability to utilize different techniques to reach code compliance is critical. Regardless of the methods utilized to persuade or gain compliance is critical, although proper documentation and violation notices are just as important.
In the above scenario, this person will most likely fight you along the way. Most adopted codes require some form of violation notice be left with the permit holder. This can be accomplished through green, red, or orange stickers left at the construction site or other forms of documentation. Now a days many are utilizing electronic devices (tablets) to itemize code violations and print, fax, or email a report to the permit holder. Then many of us still use paper and multi-use forms which can easily be duplicated in the field (a copy left with the permit holder, a copy to the file, and maybe a copy to other departments).
Clear common language (to the permit holder) documentation is necessary to provide clear language once the inspector has left the site. In addition this written communication serves as a notice that the person is in violation of the code. There are times where we must make a case of when the permit holder was made aware of the violation and these complete reports are crucial.
Okay, I issue my red sticker, give a violation notice and perform a follow up inspection 2 weeks later. The issues have not been resolved and now a second notice is given. What happens after this is usually based on policies outlined by the AHJ. This could include financial penalties under your ordinance or even a written ticket. The process should be made clear to the permit holder without using terminology as to what the next steps are.
Lets go back to the example of the permit holder who wants to fight everything; what is a violation worth a ticket? Are there code requirements which deserve faster follow up, or a more severe penalty? Most of us would say yes, but isn’t a violation still a violation? The difference between a good inspector and a great one, is the ability to gain code compliance by utilizing different methods of persuasion, and utilizing the violation system to gain compliance when necessary. Make sure the penalty matches the crime, so is the issuance of a ticket, with a court appearance necessary when the open violation is improper use of an extension cord?