Backlog in austin’s electrical inspections costing homeowners time, money – kxan 8 gases

Copyright 2018 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Christi Martin standing in her new kitchen. (KXAN Photo) In one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, new homes and home remodels are happening at a rapid pace. But city inspections, namely electrical inspections, aren’t keeping up. At the beginning of May, the city’s backlog for electrical inspections was closing in on 500 work orders and growing. Within the last five years, the city has seen a nearly 70 percent increase in residential electrical inspections.

The delay at Martin’s house has cost her around $10,000-$15,000, and that’s putting it conservatively. "Lots of money down the drain because of the uncertainty,” Martin said, of not knowing when the electrical inspector would actually show up.

"It’s not acceptable,” said James Pace with Efficient AC, Electric & Plumbing. With his 20-plus years of experience, he says he’s never seen the delays this bad. "It costs me time and a lot of money and a lot of effort to make sure that my inspections are getting done.”

With the current system, city inspectors are not able to give an accurate date of when they’ll arrive, which makes it difficult for contractors. "If you want to have somebody on site when the inspector’s there, it’s almost impossible,” Pace added.

If the first electrical inspection doesn’t get a passing grade, customers have to wait another five days for a rescheduled appointment, or however long it takes to get back to that property. Other delays could be attributed to not being able to access the property, or the address isn’t clearly visible.

KXAN’s Kylie McGivern tagged along with city electrical inspector Alan Anders on a job site, who said, "Right now, with the number of calls coming in, over 200 a day, sometimes even higher than that – our inspectors are just overwhelmed with what we have."

Roig said Development Services’ goal is to get to a job site within 24 hours of an inspection being scheduled, 90 percent of the time. “For electrical inspections right now, we’re not meeting — not even 20 percent that. We’re not meeting that at all.”

A factor that makes the position hard to fill is the fact that an applicant has to be a master electrician. The city requires applicants to have the advanced training for at least two years. However, Roig said, people with that level of experience typically have their own company and can make three to four times more money in the private sector than what the city is offering.

Roig said a master electrical license is something most cities don’t typically require. “They allow electrical inspections to be performed by someone that is certified as an electrical inspector,” Roig explained. Austin requires it as a way to “improve the quality of the inspectors.”

Roig said he’s in talks with the city’s Electric Board to see if they can adjust that requirement. “Once they get to that level of expertise, I think we can actually be able to hire that person,” he said, rather than wait two years. “So we’re looking at options on that.”

While Roig understands the frustration delays can cause, he says the city must do everything to code. “They’re working really hard. And they’re doing it for the safety of the residents. They are looking for life safety issues. We want this building to be safe and that’s the main goal. So, all I want to say is, ‘be patient, we’re working on this.’”

At Wednesday’s May 16 Electric Board meeting, members plan to address the need for more electrical inspectors and review how long it’s taking to close work orders. The board makes recommendations to the Austin City Council, currently weighing needs for next year’s budget. Just like last year, Development Services says it plans to put in another request for more electrical inspectors. Tips for a Successful Inspection