An owner of a building in Chicago received a big shock when his building was torn down without his knowledge. He alleges in a civil lawsuit against the city that he was never served with papers for the demolition. A person with the same name received the papers instead. When the owner did not show up for the hearing, a default judgment was entered against him and the court ordered the building demolished. This is not that unusual a problem, especially when a structure is not owner occupied. I have seen warrants issued for the arrest of a person who had nothing to do with the violation but had the bad luck to have the same name as the offender. This is why obtaining proper identifying information about an offender is important. That would include a name, date of birth, height, weight, eye color, and in a perfect world, a driver’s license number. I think that some inspectors are a bit cavalier about this type of information but it can save the inspector and the local jurisdiction from a nasty lawsuit, like the one in this case. Often the best time to obtain identifying information is when a person applies for a permit. If things take a turn for the worse, the inspector already has the information.
When someone uses the defense of preemption, it means that a law is not valid because federal law does not allow states or local governments to regulate an area of the law. Federal law trumps state law if the defense is successful because the federal government has reserved the right to regulate a particular matter. Builders used this argument to attack the state of Washington’s building code. The Building Industry Association of Washington along with individual builders and contractors recently challenged the State of Washington’s Building Code, contending that the State’s 2009 requirement that new building construction meet heightened energy conservation goals was preempted by federal law, specifically The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 . The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the state of Washington had satisfied EPCA’s conditions, and therefore was not preempted. The court found that the Washington Building Code satisfies the conditions Congress established for enforcement of state and local building codes consistent with federal energy law. This is an important decision that gives local jurisdictions a voice in reaching energy conservation goals. The case can be found at 2012 WL 2369304.