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  1. #1
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    Default Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    So my buddy calls me yesterday concerning a cease and desist order he received yesterday from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, otherwise known as CDPHE, concerning a complaint filed by persons unknown about non-permitted work underway at his recently purchased fix and flip. The house was built in the early 1950's. The complaint was authored by an environmental investigator employed by the City and County of Denver, but was written on a CDPHE complaint form. Interesting.

    A little background on my buddy. He has worked the past 25 or so years for a company that supplies high tech circuit boards to purveyors of fine military hardware and weapons systems that can drop cruise missiles on a dime in Gaddafi's back pocket. Before that he kinda did interior trim in cracker box houses. So he's got that going for him. He and his wife bought their first FnF last September, all wide eyed and bushy tailed, and won't it be fun playing contractor, working 50-60 hours a week at my day job, 'then having real fun demoing, drywalling, and carpentering at night and on weekends', blah, blah, blah... "Sure will,” I says. Snicker.

    He asked if I would be willing to come over and tell him what I think. "Sure will,” I says. Small house, laser measured in an hour, kitchen plans drawn in two, nifty summary delivered after about three hours spent. OK, six total hours, but who's counting? Don't hear from him for two weeks. He finally calls back to ask if I know how to make oak flooring transitions. (You may/may not have seen a thread.*) "Sure do. Say, did you like my kitchen layout?" I asks.

    "Yeah, we decided to go with Home Depot."

    "Great, did they come verify measurements for you?"

    "No, they wanted $100 bucks so we tweaked your drawing a little and used it."

    "Hey, no skin off my teeth. Hope it all works out."

    Cabinet runs ending 7 1/2" from side walls, requiring 6" + 1 1/2" joined fillers, in an already tiny kitchen. Dishwasher door that opens less than 45° because it hits laundry room door casing. Sink jammed into a shared inside corner with the free standing oven. No REP's, and the refer's on the end. I certainly didn't draw that. Then there's the mini 6' x 3' hallway with six door jambs, none more than 6" away from each other. New prehungs, all at various heights. There's more but I drank to forget. "Dude, I told you how to do this! Level a line!" Nothing but the FU stare. Turns out he hired a couple of latino tile setters who claimed to have set hunnerds of doors in distant haciendas. T'was truly fugly. I couldn't restrain a hardy, prolonged belly laugh.

    Then I got the 'I hate my life' speech, his 2EW (the boss) was riding his ass to finish, they were losing money, so I grabbed him by the shoulders, shook him, gave him a slap across the face...and left to have some beers and watch football. Felt good. Real good. Maybe he gets the last laugh. He claims they flipped $15k out of it. Enough to buy their next POS. Oh yeah, he bought me dinner for my effort. You know, for my effort. On to his latest gig...


    The sheer audacity. He has asked each of the past three weekends if I want to 'drop by' and check out their latest purchase. "When the internet runs out of porn,” I says.

    "C'mon, I want to pick your brain on a few things."

    "I'm sure you do but I just found out they have gay porn, too. Besides, I'm riding my bicycle this weekend, miles in the opposite direction."

    Enter the cease and desist order. Turns out homeowners may be able to skirt federal EPA and OSHA laws concerning lead, but not state laws concerning asbestos. The inspector demanded licensed inspection of all drywall, insulation, flooring, and siding, then licensed abatement for anything testing positive. Fines are pending. I have never experienced this situation before, and neither have the few, local contractors and/or trades I've talked to this morning. A leveling of the homeowner-cum-contractor vs legitimate contractor playing field to which Lavrans alludes, perhaps? Or simply bored BIs driving around eating all the cop's donuts? We'll see.

    Before anyone jumps to conclusions thinking this is a rant about not getting paid, or working for friends or family...save your breath, because it's not. Some outcomes are better than money. I'll keep you posted.



    * http://forums.jlconline.com/forums/s...led#post579196
    Last edited by Overbuilders; 04-21-2011 at 11:11 AM. Reason: I forgot how much fun it was working nights and weekends.
    Richie Poor

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, value engineer your unit prices.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Well, I already feel better having gotten that oh-so-well written story.

    When you get tired of playing at this contractor gig, I'm betting you could get a retirement writing something for Playboy. Or perhaps Esquire. You know, mix passions. I'm sure they could use a contractor stories about sex, beer and fools column.
    http://www.lavrans.com

    "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination." -Andrew Lang

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Jeepers, that's the highest low praise given for non-fiction to date. Anything I can do to help prevent chemical imbalance, just ask. I've also been typing with my left hand just in case I do get a writing gig.
    Richie Poor

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, value engineer your unit prices.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Bet he ticked off the neighbors working after hours and such and they made a few calls.

    He's screwed.

    He'd better go make friends with each of the inspector types that are after him and figure out exactly what he needs to do to fix the problem. He could end up bankrupt due to the fines if he doesn't.
    HERS Rater • BPI Building Analyst • BPI Envelope Professional
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    He better not try to fix this with a box of joe and a dozen fancies, he's got to get the scotch working and fast.
    I will never buy a Nissan Cargo Van.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    I've encountered a similar enforcement story.

    One of the smaller, but more enlightened building departments in the area put on a seminar and invited builders who have done work in that city. They covered the recent code changes (we just switched to the 2009 cycle) and a lot of very useful info on their review, permitting and inspection process. Here's the interesting thing: they don't go on patrol, but they do keep an eye out for any construction going on. If they see a worksite they're not sure about, they pull out their laptop and verify there's a permit taken out. If there isn't, they shut it down and assess fines, etc. If the "builder" isn't licensed, they do refer them for prosecution.

    This is the only AHJ I know of that does this, but perhaps it's the start of a trend.

    Question: when are you required to test for asbestos?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    In the last several months I've had to spend a lot of time in a building department, after the first of the year I noticed that waiting along with me, and at the permit desk, were homeowners trying to deal with non-compliance citations, when asked whether the work on their new permit was going to be performed by a licensed contractor all said no, they were going to do it themselves, or they were going to do it with their brother-in-law's help, and of course they made it a point to say that their brother-in-law was a professional roofer, carpenter or whatever.
    “‎A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.” ― John Stuart Mill

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    You sure do capture the flavour of the shoddy and the slipshod "flippers"! (Try saying that ten times fast.)

    But no sympathies here for people who knowingly skirt the rules. Especially, as I wheeze about the house worrying myself over mesothelioma from all the crap I breathed in over the years. I haven't renoed anything since similar environmental controls kicked in here in 2005. Just new builds.
    "The fatal flaw of all revolutionaries is that they know how to tear things down but don’t have a f**king clue about how to build anything." Jim Goad

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Quote Originally Posted by dgbldr View Post

    Here's the interesting thing: they don't go on patrol, but they do keep an eye out for any construction going on. If they see a worksite they're not sure about, they pull out their laptop and verify there's a permit taken out. If there isn't, they shut it down and assess fines, etc. If the "builder" isn't licensed, they do refer them for prosecution.
    Turns out that's exactly what happened in this instance. An 'environmental investigator' glanced down a side street as he was driving, spotted my buddy's dumpster, and drove around the block to check it out. Questionable debris inside, C&D order written. My buddy says the inspector intimated there were better things to do than simple enforcement when times were good, but now that government coffers are short, well...it's kinda like a radar speed trap.
    Richie Poor

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, value engineer your unit prices.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Quote Originally Posted by dgbldr View Post

    Question: when are you required to test for asbestos?
    Every building department has different thresholds so a call prior to bidding will be necessary. If all AHJs follow CDPHE to the letter, then here is info I've posted in the past you probably didn't notice:

    "• If the amount of asbestos-containing material to be disturbed exceeds the following trigger levels than an abatement contractor must remove the material.

    o Trigger levels means amounts of material as follows:

    􀂃 With regard to single-family residential dwellings, the trigger levels are 50 linear feet on pipes, 32 square feet on other surfaces, or the volume equivalent of a 55-gallon drum.

    􀂃 With regard to all areas other than single-family residential dwellings, the trigger levels are 260 linear feet on pipes, 160 square feet on other surfaces, or the volume equivalent of a 55-gallon drum."

    http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/ap/asbestos/renodemo.pdf
    Richie Poor

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, value engineer your unit prices.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Quote Originally Posted by Overbuilders View Post
    My buddy says the inspector intimated there were better things to do than simple enforcement when times were good, but now that government coffers are short, well...it's kinda like a radar speed trap.
    Interesting. Not the case here. The building department I wrote about seems motivated by complaints from residents about bad work. Apparently some residents have had the sheer unmitigated gall to call and complain about water ingress and other problems resulting from poor work on non-permitted jobs :)

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    In my unregulated 'hood, one can do a total gut of the inside, change structure and config any old way one wants, totally strip and replace all exterior fittings and finishes, reroof and reside, and as long as you don't add on, no permit and no inspections are required.

    If it takes fifteen dumpsters, so what.

    Sad to hear how government controls things in the big metro areas.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/bu...lines&emc=tha2

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    I agree Bob. Thank goodness I now reside in TX.

    Moral of this story: don't use dumpsters when you are flipping. Have the haulaway truck parked in the back. Stay low key.

    The house I currently live in is built in a city that didn't require permits when it was built new (five years old). I know the guys holding licenses like to think they build superior homes but the reality is that licenses don't mean a thing. They are only another way to tax the people and empower the bureaucracy. They also eliminate many tradesmen from becoming builders because they spend too much time learning how to build and not enough time on the useless laws that hamstring free enterprise.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Dylan View Post
    In my unregulated 'hood, one can do a total gut of the inside, change structure and config any old way one wants, totally strip and replace all exterior fittings and finishes, reroof and reside, and as long as you don't add on, no permit and no inspections are required.

    If it takes fifteen dumpsters, so what.

    Sad to hear how government controls things in the big metro areas.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/bu...lines&emc=tha2
    You find it sad that unlicensed hacks doing unsafe, shoddy work are being taken to task? I find it refreshing.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Fix and Flips: The Journey Begins

    Quote Originally Posted by jimAKAblue View Post
    I know the guys holding licenses like to think they build superior homes but the reality is that licenses don't mean a thing. They are only another way to tax the people and empower the bureaucracy. They also eliminate many tradesmen from becoming builders because they spend too much time learning how to build and not enough time on the useless laws that hamstring free enterprise.
    At least in CA the license process:
    - ensures that the contractor has a minimum level of verified experience in his trade
    - has a small bond that a customer can go after through the state if the contractor screws up
    - does not have any felonies related to ripping off homeowners
    - can pass a test in his trade
    - knows enough of the relevant contractor law that they can pass the test

    The licensing isn't costly, and it isn't particularly difficult, nor does it take that much time to review the material enough to pass the tests. Frankly, you can do it in a few evenings if you get the right study materials. That said, the pass rate for the tests is said to be remarkably low. Don't know why. I didn't have any trouble on the four tests I've taken.

    I had the opportunity to sit in on one of the license law course sessions just for fun. Didn't seem particularly useful to me. But I was particularly amused that the question a lot of the contractors were interested in was: "Can I get a license if I have a felony?" That got a chuckle out of the instructor and a few of the students, but after 15 minutes of related questions from about half the class (!), the instructor finally changed the subject and moved on. ;-) Probably has do with the low entry threshold for entry level workers. Few companies do formal background checks on new employees.
    HERS Rater • BPI Building Analyst • BPI Envelope Professional
    Certified Green Building Professional • Certified Existing Home Advisor
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