August 8, 2023

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Inspector Interactions

I want to preface this by saying that I rarely have issues with inspectors, but that is not to say that it never happens. I have found that if you have a tidy jobsite, you have all of your plans and drawings on-site, you appear professional, and your job conveys that you are doing the best that you can to limit everyone’s liability; the inspectors are generally pretty easy-going. This does not absolve you from the one crabby curmudgeon that has a stick up his hind parts though. 

When I was younger I did not know any of the inspectors, they did not know me, and to be fair, I was not overly confident in everything that I was doing. This led to severe anxiety whenever it was time for rough inspections. At this point in my career, I am confident in my abilities, I am familiar with the process, and most of the inspectors are familiar with me. They understand that I have everyone’s best interest at mind, and I am not looking to pull the wool over their eyes or take shortcuts. Generally, this leads to a pretty simple inspection process. If I am missing something, they allow me to fix it and send them photos of the work that they requested without halting progress. They are there to do their job, just as I am doing mine.

After a long and grueling road on my current project, we are at the rough inspection stage. Although I was ecstatic to be moving ahead, I was slightly anxious to meet with the inspectors. This was mostly because of how much the scope had changed and because I have never worked in Medford before. I do in fact live in this town, but it is generally not my market or my target customer. I specialize in renovations to older homes, and Medford is primarily a newer town. These inspectors have no idea who I am, there is no established trust, and I do not have the luxury of having the benefit of the doubt. It felt as if I was just establishing myself in business all over again. 

Now to get to the point of this post. Inspections went well! We are still waiting on paperwork approvals on the building end of things, but electrical and plumbing passed. The building inspector is also the plumbing inspector, so I spoke to him regarding the building end of things, and I am confident that when our paperwork moves through the office, we will be good to go. He was informative and helpful. The electrical inspector on the other hand had an attitude from the get go. He passed us, but had a chip on his shoulder. It was not because of me personally, our work, our electrician, or anything that we could control from a construction standpoint. He was just miserable.

It got me thinking as to why certain inspectors act this way? The hard attitude and attempt to throw their weight around. Why they refuse to communicate, answer questions, or simply be cordial? Who is this helping? I could understand if you walked onto a job where things were done incorrectly, it was a pigsty, or the contractor was not ready for inspections. This would be frustrating to say the least, but why the attitude when things are on the up and up? I am here doing my job the best that I can do, the right way. Why are you acting like a jerk? How does this benefit anyone? I will be honest, if I was a fly-by-night guy and I met this inspector, I would say screw getting permits next time. This guy just busts my stones for no reason. As an inspector you can be firm, demanding, discerning, and professional while remaining respectful. To respond to my general conversation with one word answers and refusing to look me in the eyes is distasteful to say the least.

Maybe this guy was having a bad day. Maybe he got in a fight with his wife or girlfriend before coming to work. Maybe his car broke down. I cannot say for certain, but as professionals it is our job to separate ourselves from that while on the clock. We are both in this situation to protect ourselves and our customers. We are on the same team. Why not work as a team? I want things to be done right just as much if not more than these inspectors do. Being a hard ass or rude is not helping the situation. Again, we passed our inspections and did not do anything wrong. Why act this way? 

At the end of the day we should all be doing the best that we can do to elevate our industry. We should treat everyone with respect and kindness until they deserve otherwise. There is a time and a place for setting the tone with someone who is out of line, but walking through the door to inspect a project for a contractor that you never met is not that place. How would this guy feel if he called me for work, and I gave him an attitude, did not answer his questions, and was short with him? Doubt he would like it very much. It would also further propagate the negative image that is associated with the trades. As a contractor you must carry yourself with integrity, display dignity, and be respectful. These township and city officials should do the same. Being a jerk serves no one within our industry. You are not helping the next generation, your subtrades, your customers, or your vendors. Set a positive and respectful example. Be the bigger person. Do not be like this inspector.

- Tyler Grace