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COVID-19 and Local Government Operations

The Home Building Association of Richmond is communicating with local governments across the Richmond region to provide the latest updates on inspection and building permit centers that may impact day-to-day residential construction operations.

This list will be updated as soon as we have the information from primary points of contact. If you have additional questions for HBAR to field, please call or email Danna Markland at dmarkland@hbar.org or 804-441-5040.

NEW (4/1): Chesterfield County has released directions on how to E-file development plans.  Until the County and VDOT get some experience in electronic reviews, they may be limited on providing expedited services for a second or later review.  HBAR members are encouraged to submit feedback on experiences through this new process for centralized industry/county communications to dmarkland@hbar.org

 

Complimentary cash flow tool, from HBAR member Meadows Urquhart Acree and Cook

The impacts of COVID 19 haven not affected all industries equally at this point. The slowdown of projects for homebuilders and contractors may not occur in the next week or even month, but undoubtedly there will be some interruption in normal operations. Company cash flow may be in a healthy position currently, but new projects may be delayed, materials may not be available, and collections will certainly be extended. Extending cashflow is critical in a time like this. Here are two immediate actions:

  • Talk to trusted advisors about new legislation that could provide cash flow in the form of tax credits or loans and
  • Project the worst, best and most likely cash flow scenarios over the next 3 months.

 

Dominion Energy – Power Installation to New Communities

Dominion is working to address subdivisions across the service territory that remain active and still need power. The following message has been conveyed for HBAR members:

“This is a message from Dominion Energy. As you are aware, these are unprecedented times. We know you depend on us to deliver energy safely and reliably every day. We’re committed to providing the energy you need, while also supporting the national effort to manage the spread of the coronavirus.

Based on the advice of health professionals, government experts, as well as our judgment on what is best for our employees and customers, we announced an elevated company response to the spread of the coronavirus, adopting staffing plans aligned with the highest priority work. This means we will have more of our employees Sheltering-in-Place, away from the workplace, some working remotely, while others will be on “ready reserve,” to be called back with little or no notice. Work will be prioritized to include only that work which is related to customer support, maintenance, system reliability and restoration, operations centers, compliance and capital projects needed to meet our customer needs.

These precautions will result in delays completing some projects. If you would like information about your specific project, please reach out to your point of contact for more information. While we know we are all in this together, we apologize for the inconvenience this may create.”

 

Virginia Dept of Health Guidance: Open Houses and Model Homes
http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/information-for-real-estate-professionals-regarding-covid-19/

Information for Real Estate Professionals Regarding COVID-19

Real estate professionals interact with the public at a significant scale. Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides recommended strategies to protect workers and limit the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, the Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR) has developed a COVID-19 Resource Page.

Executive Order 53 states “All businesses shall, to the extent possible, adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and other appropriate workplace guidance from state and federal authorities while in operation.” In accordance with this directive, real estate professionals who conduct open houses, including builders who provide access to spec or model houses, are advised to follow best management practices:

Limit interior access to no more than 10 persons

  • Adapt social distancing protocols to open houses:
  • Have all individuals who enter immediately wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Have lots of extra pens and allow each person who signs in to use one pen that they then keep or you sanitize before another person uses
  • Ask people for their names and contact information that you write down or record on your electronic device
  • Open all doors and turn on lights prior to the start of the open house so that people can walk around the house without touching doorknobs and light switches
  • Have paper towels near sinks in the event someone wants to turn a sink on/off
  • Have individuals wash hands or use hand sanitizer upon leaving

 

Chesterfield County

Chesterfield County government services will be open with reduced operations Monday, March 23 through Sunday, March 29. Buildings will be inaccessible to the public, and citizens should call ahead before attempting to visit any county buildings in person. Courts will be operating under state guidelines.

  • Chesterfield County Building Commissioner Notice – March 20
  • Chesterfield County Community Development Update from Jesse Smith – March 18
  • Inspections will continue to be performed.
  • Permit applications sent via mail or commercial courier will be accepted and processed.
  • Though customers are not allowed in the building, customer deliveries are being handled using an exterior pickup/drop off cart located in the breezeway directly outside of the Community Development Building (9800 Government Center Parkway). Instructions are provided on the door and/or cart.
  • The Walk-Thru permit process is suspended until further notice.
  • Further information is available at: https://www.chesterfield.gov/223/Building-Inspection
  • Chesterfield Utilities is open with reduced operations. They have inspectors assigned to all their development sites that are active. At this point they are allowing water shutdowns to facilitate connections to their system but ask that any requested shutdowns be limited in duration and area. Fully complete and sign the application for service along with the connection fee payment and place it in one of their three physical drop boxes outside the office. They are continuing to process these requests and setting meters. There is a physical drop box located at each of their two entrances as well as a drive though.   Make checks payable to: Treasurer of Chesterfield County.  Suggestion: call 804-748-1862 to ensure they have the correct connection fee amount for the service before writing the check. Download the application from the following link.

 

Henrico County

Please be advised that Henrico County is implementing the following changes to their Permitting and Inspection services in response to the CoVID-19 outbreak

  • Permit Submittals and Issuance: The Department of Building Construction and Inspections office at the West Government Center on 4301 E. Parham Rd. will be closed to the public. Drop stations will be placed in the Administration Building Lobby for permit submittals. Customers will be notified by email and/or phone with instructions for picking up permits that have been approved and issued. Permit and plan review services will be conducted by staff via remote telework locations. Communications with customers will be handled via cell phone and email. Please note there will be delays with permit/plan review services due to transport of documents between staff.
  • Inspections: All inspectors will continue working remotely to conduct field inspections. Inspections of any interior spaces of occupied dwelling units that require access through the dwelling unit are suspended until further notice. Customers are authorized, without prior approval, to use third party inspection services for footings, electrical and plumbing groundwork, insulation, and for any inspections that we are unable to perform within 2 days of the submitted inspection request. Third party inspections are not authorized for foundations, framing, plumbing, mechanical, gas or electrical rough-ins, fire protection systems (sprinklers and alarms), or final inspections unless prior approval has been obtained. Third party inspections shall be requested, and the inspection reports submitted, in accordance with our published Third-Party Inspection Policy.
  • The Residential Inspection Surcharge Fee for new single-family dwellings is suspended until further notice.
  • Complaint inspections for maintenance code violations will be limited to only reports of unsafe buildings and structures that involved life/safety issues. Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) inspections of commercial food service establishments will be suspended indefinitely.
  • If you have any questions regarding permits, inspections or plan reviews, please call their office at 804-501-4360.

 

Hanover County

  • The Hanover County Planning Department will be implementing a new procedure for submitting applications and plans to the office. Detailed instructions are available at this link. These procedures will be in effect on Thursday, March 19, 2020 and for the foreseeable future.

 

Goochland County

Goochland County government offices are open:

  • Goochland County government offices and facilities are open with reduced operations starting at regular operating hours. Business is currently operating as usual.

 

City of Richmond

The Multifamily Housing Council addresses CVOID-19 crisis, development in the City of Richmond,

City Hall is closed to the public:

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak the following changes to our Permitting and Inspections services will take effect on Monday, March 23rd. City Hall Room(s) 108 and 110 are closed to the public until further notice. We are attempting to make as many services available to you as possible while keeping the public and City staff safe from potential exposure.

Permitting and Plan Review:

  • Priority permit processing will be given to emergency permit applications pertaining to life safety and/or habitability concerns (e.g. water, sewer, power and gas) as well essential facilities applications. Plan review services will continue by staff at remote telework locations. Communications with customers will be handled via e-mail or telephone. Plans will be reviewed in the order in which they are received.
  • Mail and Fax Services:    Drop off and fax related services are not available at this time. Mail-in services are limited to what can be sent via the United States Postal Service (USPS). We are not able to receive mail from UPS, FEDEx or Amazon until further notice. Any documents received by mail will be processed as staffing resources allow..

Residential Trade Applications: 

Permits Requiring Plan Review: 

  • We will be utilizing Microsoft OneDrive to receive commercial applications and plans electronically. Other services accepted through OneDrive are permit extensions, cancellations, modifications, contractor changes, amendments to the scope of work, responses to plan review comments and post permit revisions. For information on how to register and use Microsoft OneDrive, click here.

Inspection:

  • Field inspections will resume for all unoccupied new commercial and residential construction projects. Inspections pertaining to life safety and/or habitability concerns (e.g. water, sewer, power and gas) as well as essential facilities will be given priority status. Inspections within occupied dwelling units are suspended until further notice. Please limit the number of contractors or site representatives meeting an inspector on a jobsite to one.
  • Third Party Inspections: Limited: Customers may use our limited 48-hour third party inspection services for individual inspections when the building official is unable to perform a scheduled inspection within two working days of a request or an agreed upon date or if authorized for other circumstances in the building official’s written policy. Third party inspections shall be requested, and the inspection reports submitted, in accordance with the City’s official policy. For more information contact david.alley@richmondgov.com for thirdpartyinspections@richmondgov.com 
  • Full: Customers may use our third-party program in part or in full to obtain third party inspection and plan review services. This option may be a good option for new projects should the COVID-19 outbreak continue long term. Please see: http://www.richmondgov.com/PlanningAndDevelopmentReview/ThirdPartyProgram.aspx  

Property Maintenance/Code Enforcement (PMCE):

  • Citizens can continue to report code enforcement issue within their community by using RVA311 and inspections will be scheduled once the City of Richmond is operational. We will continue to monitor and respond to the ongoing status of the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers are asked to please follow the guidelines and precautions recommended by the CDC as outlined in this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

Our staff will be taking common sense precautions to follow the CDC guidelines while delivering permitting and inspection services. This will include refusal to inspect buildings occupied by individuals that have either tested positive, been exposed to, or are symptomatic of the COVID-19 virus.

 

New Kent County

  • New Kent County administrative offices are closed to public access but most operations impacting residential construction are operating modified. Building inspections are still being conducted in the field and permits are accepted via physical drop box outside. When using the drop box please note the office that should receive the documentation you are leaving. E&S, zoning and planning are operating on the same modified approach.

 

Deed Recordations

The Richmond Association of Realtors is tracking deed recordations. Chesterfield County, Henrico County, Hanover County, Goochland County, New Kent County and the City of Richmond are conducting traditional recordation and eRecordings.

 

Issues with Recording, Indexing and Scanning Local Land Records 

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a declaration of judicial emergency, which suspended all non-essential, non-emergency Circuit and District court proceedings with some exceptions, which can be found here. The Chief Justice’s declaration also stated that "the courts and clerks’ offices shall remain operational and provide essential services while balancing the health and safety needs of court visitors and personnel.”

The Home Builders Association of Virginia (HBAV) believes that the Chief Justice's declaration and underlying judicial protocols hold that indexing, scanning and recording by the Clerks’ Offices are deemed "essential functions" of the Virginia court system.

However, HBAR has received several reports of challenges with the recording, indexing and scanning of local land records.  If you run into any challenges with local Circuit Court Clerks and the recording, indexing, and scanning of land records, please contact HBAV's Vice President of Government Affairs, Andrew Clark, at AClark@HBAV.com as soon as possible.

HBAV has been in frequent communication with the Virginia REALTORS and the Virginia Court Clerks Association to resolve any challenges that arise during these unprecedented times. In order to resolve these issues in a timely manner, it is helpful to consolidate our communications to the relevant stakeholders through HBAV.

The Department of Housing and Community Development has pulled together a “snapshot in time” spreadsheet of the current status of local building departments as well as information about approved third party inspectors for that locality.  The Virginia Building Code Officials Association has posted it on the website and will be updated as often as possible.  That page can be found here: https://vbcoa.org/operating-status/