Op-ed: Keep building safety in mind

Carlton Wil­li­ams, com­mis­sion­er of the De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, asks Phil­adelphia res­id­ents to do their part in keep­ing their homes safe.

May was Na­tion­al Build­ing Safety Month and we at the De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions are com­mit­ted to mak­ing Phil­ad­elphia the na­tion’s lead­er in build­ing safety. But we at L & I can’t do it alone. Res­id­ents are the eyes and ears of L & I, and by arm­ing them with the tools they need, the city will be safer place to live and grow.

For most Phil­ad­elphi­ans, our homes are our greatest in­vest­ment and our most valu­able as­set. It is com­mon for res­id­ents to per­form home im­prove­ment pro­jects on their own, but of­ten they are un­aware or un­sure of what level of im­prove­ment re­quires a per­mit or li­cense. It is im­port­ant for them to pro­tect them­selves, their fam­il­ies and their in­vest­ment by act­ively in­volving L& I to en­sure that they are re­ceiv­ing and per­form­ing the qual­ity work each home pro­ject de­serves. 

These three ques­tions are key to this pro­cess:

1. Does your pro­ject re­quire a per­mit?

— Build­ing per­mits may be re­quired be­fore be­gin­ning pro­jects to en­large, re­pair, change, add to or de­mol­ish a struc­ture. Plumb­ing and elec­tric­al per­mits, among oth­ers, may also be re­quired. 

2. Does your pro­ject re­quire a li­censed con­tract­or?

— An­swers to this ques­tion are avail­able by con­tact­ing L & I or by vis­it­ing our new on­line power tool, which can be found at phila.gov/li.

3. Is your con­tract­or li­censed and in­sured? 

— Al­ways ask and veri­fy. Be sure to ask your con­tract­or be­fore sign­ing any form­al con­tract and al­ways veri­fy their cre­den­tials on­line by vis­it­ing the new on­line power tool. 

If a pro­ject is com­pleted without a per­mit or by a non-li­censed or un­in­sured con­tract­or, res­id­ents run the risk en­dan­ger­ing them­selves, their fam­il­ies, their in­vest­ment and our city. Res­id­ents also risk the pos­sib­il­ity of in­cur­ring ex­cess­ive re­pair costs. 

L & I strives to be an ac­cess­ible and valu­able re­source for res­id­ents, and through our new on­line power tool, ac­cess to mean­ing­ful in­form­a­tion is easi­er than ever be­fore. Build­ing safety is something each and every res­id­ent needs to take own­er­ship of. If you see something, say something. We urge all res­id­ents to an­onym­ously re­port any build­ing vi­ol­a­tions, dan­ger­ous and un­safe work sites and aban­doned build­ings to 311.  

As L & I con­tin­ues to grow and evolve, it is our hope that res­id­ents will join us in our ef­fort. Our work as a city and our com­mit­ment to each oth­er spans far bey­ond a single month, as we are truly part­ners in this ef­fort. ••

Carlton Wil­li­ams 

Com­mis­sion­er, De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions

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