Friday, January 25, 2008

Pennsylvania Construction Code Act Appealed to Supreme Court

In 1999, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act(Act of November10, 1999, P.L.491, as amended, 35 P.S.Sec.7210.101-7210.1103). The legislature was concerned that many municipalities in the Commonwealth either had no construction codes at all or had a confusing multicplicity of construction codes. By adopting the Uniform Construction Code in the Act, the legislature hoped to insure the use of uniform and modern construction standards and regulations throughout Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Construction Code Act (PCCA) generally applies to the construction, alteration, repair and occupancy of all buildings in Pennsylvania and regulates inspections in various areas, including electrical, plumbing, energy, and fire accessibility.

A provision in the PCCA allowed municipalities to administer and enforce its provisions by the retention of one or more construction code officials or third-party agencies on behalf of the municipality. Many municipalites in the Commonwealth contracted with third-party agencies to administer and enforce the PCCA for them. Such a contract was authorized in Section 501(b)(2) of the Act.

Several cases were filed by Pennsylvania companies challenging the sole provider of inspection services that the municipalities were using. The Commonwealth Court ruled that a municipality cannot designate, appoint or contract with a single person or entity to be the exclusive inspector for determining PCCA compliance. The Court determined that inspections under the Act are separate and distinct functions from the administration and enforcement of the Act. Thus, a municipality would be required to recognize an inspection from any qualified company or individual. See, Alleheny Inspection Service, Inc., et al. vs. North Union Township, et al.

The municipalities involved in this litigation all file petitions for alllowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On July 31, 2007 that Court granted the Petitions and consolidated the cases for argument. The question raised on the appeal is whether the Commonwealth Court erred in ruling that a municipality which elected to enforce and administer the provisions of the PCCA, must allow any construction code officical, certified by the Department of Labor & Industry, to inspect construction to determine compliance with the provisions of the Uniform Construction Code.

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