Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.
“Some friends hired a building contractor to add on to their home. The city issued a building permit for the job. The building inspectors inspected the work and failed to require the contractor to install vent flashings on the pipes coming thru the roof.
It rained and the roof collapsed.
Three months later the building inspectors sent the friends a letter with the building codes that required vent flashings on the roof and faulted the builder for the roof penetrations by the rain.
Since the building inspectors did not make the Contractor install vent flashings which were required by building codes, have the building inspectors and the city committed fraud by taking money for a building permit?”
First, your friend would want to review the contract they signed with the building contractor. There may be language in the contract that addresses this type of issue. Assuming there isn’t any language for this type of incident, one would need to know whether your friends or the contractor obtained the permits. Generally, the person who obtained the permits is responsible for complying with them. If the contractor applied for the permits, then he may have failed to meet code (and likely breached his contract with your friend).
Whether your friend will be able to hold the city liable for missing something during a building inspection is another matter entirely. The contractor is probably your friend’s best bet for compensation, and licensed contractors are generally required to carry insurance to pay for damages as a result of their work (like the ones to your friend’s home).
That said, the failure of the building inspector to catch the error may not get the contractor off the hook. Not installing vent flashings seems like a pretty obvious mistake and your friend should contact an attorney to pursue a claim against the contractor. They should be able to use the letter from the building inspectors as evidence of his fault.