Tighter oversight, or not?

Minot open to input on permit rules for roofing

File Photo Workers erect houses in southeast Minot last May.

Repairing a roof won’t trigger the need for a building permit in Minot, but homeowners might be better protected if certain roof repairs were monitored by inspectors, says city building official Mitch Flanagan.

“It’s one of my goals this year to get an opinion on what the public thinks of that,” Flanagan said. “There’s more of a benefit for the homeowner to have these roofers be licensed and have work inspected.”

However, he added, a permit requirement should be considered only if residents want to see the change.

In a letter to the editor published in the Minot Daily News in December, a Valley City area resident wrote about receiving a notice from the Barnes County Planning and Zoning Commission that indicated he would need a permit to replace some shingles blown off his house. The letter writer suggested those strict permit requirements could be coming around the state.

Jessica Jenrich, planning and zoning administrator for Barnes County, said the notices that went out were meant only to inform residents of fines for building code violations. Barnes County does not require any roofing permits except for construction of new structures, she said.

Nationwide, though, many jurisdictions require roofing repair permits, Flanagan said. Minot requires permits for new construction or roof replacement only, not repairs.

Flanagan said there can be value in requiring permits for larger repair projects, such as those involving 50 percent or more of a roof’s surface.

City inspections offer homeowners a level of assurance that a project is done correctly and meets building code, he said. In rebuilding following the 2011 flood, there were a number of complaints about roofing contractors who came into the area, he said.

Permits also create documents of record to confirm work done on houses, which can be useful to potential buyers.

Safety often forms the rationale for permitting, Flanagan said. Neighbors are entitled to protection from building components coming loose in a wind because of improper installation. There’s also public interest in ensuring energy compliance or emergency egress.

“Most buildings live longer than the people who build them, and the general public expects to be safe in whatever building they are in. The best way to determine whether they are safe, every day, is from an effective building code program,” Flanagan said.

Permits should not become a regulatory burden, though, he said.

“We have a responsibility to the local economy, and at the same time for public safety. We have to constantly monitor this balancing act,” Flanagan said.

Minot’s permit costs are based on the value of the project but start at $50.

The 2015 International Residential Building Code referenced by the City of Minot includes exemptions from permits for:

® one-story detached accessory structures with floor area of less than 200 square feet.

® fences less than seven feet high.

® retaining walls not over four feet high from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge.

® smaller water tanks supported directly upon grade.

® sidewalks and driveways.

® painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work.

® prefabricated swimming pools that are less than 24 inches deep.

® playground equipment.

® window awnings supported by an exterior wall that do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and do not require additional support.

® decks not exceeding 200 square feet that are not more than 30 inches above grade at any point, are not attached to a dwelling and do not serve the exit door.

Electrical exemptions also exist, including for certain types of decorative lighting; equipment operating at less than 25 volts and not capable of supplying more than 50 watts; and minor repair work.

Mechanical or gas permits aren’t required for most portable items or minor repairs.

Homeowners with questions about whether their projects might require permits can contact the building inspection office at 857-4102 to request a courtesy inspection. A inspector will review the site, usually within three days and sometimes the next day, to determine whether a permit is necessary, and if so, explain the requirements.

“They will also guide them on how to do work that would meet building codes,” Flanagan said.