CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — Hundreds of engineers have dropped out of a windstorm certification program following legislative changes to become certified by the Texas Department of Insurance.
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (http://bit.ly/WD97Vl) reported Sunday that more than 900 engineers took part last year. That dropped to about 200 as of Feb. 15.
The new law says engineers must take an online course to renew or gain windstorm certification.
Engineers say that's unnecessary because they are already licensed professionals. Engineers also complained about lengthy and costly audits by state regulators.
Department spokesman Jerry Hagins says the process helps make sure engineers are complying. Regulators have found instances where engineers certified noncompliant work.
Structures need to be windstorm certified to be insured by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and to get financing.
For some homebuilders, such as Bill Underbrink, so many engineers dropping from the program has meant thousands of dollars in losses. He built three houses and the engineer that designed them suddenly abandoned the program and could not certify the houses, making it harder for Underbrink to sell them.
Eventually he found an engineer who would do the inspection and certification, but Underbrink could not afford the $30,000 to remove walls and roofing the new professional required before issuing the certificate.
Engineers also complained about the audit process that the Department of Insurance does to their certifications.
In 2012, the agency audited 627 windstorm certificates for about 5,600 certification requests, Hagins said.
An audit usually takes between three to six months, but some can last more than a year, depending on how quickly the engineer responds to the department's requests, Hagins said. During the course of a state audit of a project, a homebuilder cannot obtain a windstorm certificate.
"At the end of the day, the engineer is still responsible for attesting that the work is compliant with the applicable windstorm building codes," said Hagins. "If the project is selected for a windstorm certification audit, the engineer must provide substantiating information that the structure is fully compliant."
David Day, an engineer from Brownsville, said he had to spend $50,000 in attorney's fees to fight audits on his projects in the past two years.
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com