You’re busted!” shouted the plumbing inspector over the phone. Naturally, that statement was met with a great deal of chagrin from my office manager and a question as to what in the heck he meant. “You’re busted,” he repeated with an element of glee that began to elicit the opposite response than he was looking for.
When it was finally determined which property he was referring to, she calmly explained that the work we had been called to perform did not require our lifting a plumbing permit.
“Don’t try to weasel out of it, you’re busted,” he once again repeated and finally elaborated on what work he was referring to. I listened as she calmly explained that we had not done the work he was calling about. Turned out the previous homeowner (or someone he hired) had installed a new bathroom and kitchen sans permit. As the new homeowner was moving in, the building inspector arrived. Seeing the newly installed plumbing, plus our mechanic on site, he assumed we had done the work without a permit. He then called the plumbing inspector.
Well, I’ll tell you what: I’m not busted, but I’d like to bust the chops of every stinking town, city and township that plays the permit games we see in my area. I know this is a common impediment many of you face and it borders on being criminal, in my opinion.
In order to obtain a plumbing permit in all but one of the areas we serve, it is necessary for me to leave whatever I’m doing and drive to their office to obtain the permit in person. As the active Master Plumber’s license in our shop (we’re only allowed to have one designated active Master Plumber for picking up permits), I am the only one allowed to apply for the permit.
Now don’t take this the wrong way. I like the majority of the people we deal with in the permit offices and enjoy chatting with them. But time equals money and losing an hour’s time to drive across town or to another area for a simple plumbing permit application is a ludicrous waste of valuable time.
In one borough north of here, it is necessary to check in at the front desk and be buzzed through a locked door to the inner sanctum for access to the plumbing permit office. On a recent visit, I stood at the front desk for 15 minutes while the receptionist talked with her veterinarian on the phone about her dog’s intestinal problems.
By sheer coincidence, the permit lady came to the lobby, recognized me and asked if I was there to pick up a plumbing permit. She let me know I was interfering with her intended coffee break. Great, now on top of having just listened to a graphic description of Fido’s stomach contents, I get to be a burden to the permit officer. Never mind my 1½ hours of productive time lost. I’m just the customer who gets to shell out 70 bucks for the privilege of obtaining a plumbing permit that grants me an audience with an inspector who knows less about plumbing than the town drunk!
Here’s the really stupid part: Every one of these governing organizations has telephones, fax machines and computers that are either connected to Web sites or have e-mail addresses for their employees. There can be no valid excuse for not using any one or combination of these modern communication devices to convey the information needed to secure a plumbing permit.
“But we need you to appear in person to verify it’s really you applying for the permit,” they say. Bull feathers! Not a single one of them is making any attempt to enforce the plumbing codes with those who waltz plumbing goods out of the big-box DIY centers. The same goods for which we must obtain plumbing permits to install legally.
They’re not bothering to chase unlicensed trunk slammers, drain cleaners and others who routinely ignore lifting permits. They aren’t licensed and many of them are constituents, which means they’re not only taxpayers, they vote! Don’t want to tick off the voters, do we? Let’s ride herd on the professional plumbing contractors instead. We can always take away their licenses and stop them from doing business.
Then there’s the $70 permit fee that gets you three visits. Additional visits are $50 each and we all know what that is meant to imply – play ball or I’ll find a reason to flunk the work. So my question is if that’s good for three visits and I only need one visit under this permit, do I get to bank the other two as a credit? You know the answer.
Last weekend, I bumped into a local township supervisor as he was picking up plumbing fixtures at the big box DIY outlet. When I inquired about his needing a plumbing permit for the work, he replied that plumbing permits were a joke and that he didn’t feel the need to pay a plumber just so he could be legal. Go figure.
Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler Inc., a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at [email protected].