Two bills surrounding building codes regulations are being considered at the Oregon State Legislature. The bills were introduced after two legal opinions were sought by building trades officials through the Oregon State Legislature’s Legislative Counsel and the Department of Justice on legality and Constitutionality of third party contractors in code enforcement. The building trades advocated for abolishing third party contracting for building code permitting, which is heavily relied upon by Oregon cities, and the dismantling of this practice is problematic for the entire code system.

Currently, Oregon cities, counties, and the building codes division issue permits for buildings. Municipalities have a strong need for use of third parties as contractors, especially in the current economy. With unemployment at a record low of 4.4 percent in Oregon, it is challenging for employers to find qualified staff to fill positions. Municipalities, not unlike other industries are suffering from overall lack of workforce availability, and building officials, in particular, require specific skill-sets to complete proper inspection and overall permitting work.

House Bill 2420 A, introduced at the request of the House interim committee on business and labor to address the conflict between local government and building trades associations on this issue through compromise. As written, the bill would require a building official to be a government employee, and clarifies and authorizes use of third party contractors for building inspection services. The bill also allows local jurisdictions to jointly employ building officials and inspectors and sets minimum qualifications for officials. The bill passed the House on a 35-23 vote on April 23, and currently resides in the Senate committee on rules awaiting further action.

The second bill, introduced by Senator Roblan and others, at the request of counties and cities is Senate Bill 1047. This solution would clarify municipalities can utilize third party contractors as building officials. Though SB 1047 provides a clear answer to this issue and clarifies that third party contracting for building official duties is in fact legal, it is not anticipated to move through the legislative process.

The effects of neither bill advancing would be potentially devastating to Oregon’s affordable housing advancements. While the Legislature is passing policy to streamline affordable housing, the political reality is that if clarity is not brought to laws surrounding third party contracting for building code officials, permits will not be able to be issued in an expedient manner.

For questions about the legal opinions or either bill, please contact Association of Oregon Counties Legal Counsel, Rob Bovett.

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate