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Maintenance inspections

 Property owners must have certain structures inspected periodically by qualified professionals.

Which structures require a maintenance inspection?

Certain structures in the city need to have specialized inspections. These include:

  • Private bridges.
  • Facades, if a building is:
    • Six or more stories tall.
    • Has any appurtenance more than 60 ft. in height.
  • Fire escapes and fire escape balconies.
  • Piers and other waterfront structures that extend below the waterline of the Delaware River, Schuykill River, or their estuaries.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) audits a random sample of these inspections.


Inspection requirements

Property owners must get inspections within 10 years after the structure is finished. They must get inspections every 5 years after that.

  • Private piers must be inspected every 3 years, and immediately after being hit by a ship or damaged.

Inspections must be conducted by a licensed structural engineer.

  • Facades may be inspected by a licensed registered architect knowledgeable in the design, construction, and inspection of facades.
  • Piers must be inspected by a team that includes licensed engineers experienced in marine structure construction and design, and commercial divers trained in structural inspections.

Process

Engineers must prepare a report stating whether the structure is safe, unsafe, or safe with a repair and maintenance program.

Safe structures

A structure is safe if one or more of the following conditions are observed:

  • No visible damage.
  • Only minor to moderate defects or deterioration is observed, but no overstressing is observed.
  • Structural elements may show very minor deterioration, but no overstressing is observed.
  • No repairs are required.

If the engineer finds that the structure is safe, the engineer must:

  • Post a weather-resistant reflective tag identifying the date of inspection, date of next required inspection, and inspector contact information (Fire Escape and Fire Escape Balconies Only).
  • Submit the Summary Inspection Form through eCLIPSE.

Safe with a repair & maintenance program

For facade inspections only: A regulation from October 2019 requires that when an engineer’s inspection finds that a facade is generally safe but in need of repairs, the repairs must be completed within six months. However, enforcement of the six month limit in the regulation will be deferred until June 2021. Until then, engineers should record facade inspection results on this earlier version of the Summary Report Form, and in accordance with the instructions on the form.

A structure is safe with repair if one or more of the following conditions are observed:

  • All primary structural elements are sound, but minor to moderate defects or deteriorations are observed.
  • Areas of moderate to advanced deterioration may be present, but do not significantly reduce the capacity of the structure for a period of at least six months (180 days) from the date of the inspection.

If the engineer finds that the structure is safe but requires repair, the engineer must:

  • Post a weather-resistant reflective tag identifying the date of inspection, date of next required inspection, and inspector contact information (Fire Escape and Fire Escape Balconies Only).
  • Submit a report detailing repairs with the Summary Inspection Form through eCLIPSE.
  • Upon completion of the repairs and no later than 6 months after initial inspection, complete a post-repair inspection and submit a new Summary Inspection Form.

The owner must:

  • Make all repairs described in the engineer’s report within 6 months of initial inspection.
  • Ensure that the required re-inspection is performed.

Unsafe structures

If the engineer finds that the structure is unsafe, engineers and owners must both take action.

The engineer must:

  • Immediately notify the owner.
  • Notify L&I within 12 hours of inspection.
  • File the full report with L&I within 24 hours of completion.
  • Reinspect the structure once repairs are completed and report back to L&I.

The owner must:

  • Close off the structure or take other actions that will protect public safety within 24 hours of being notified.
  • Apply for necessary permits within 3 days. Before repairing a historic building, the owner must contact the Philadelphia Historical Commission at (215) 686-7660.
  • Begin work to correct the condition within 10 days and continue working until the unsafe condition is fixed.

Where to submit reports

Submit reports online using eCLIPSE.

All reports must use the legal address established by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA). You must have a design professional registration in order to submit any building certifications or reports.

Visit Help using eCLIPSE for step-by-step instructions on how to submit a maintenance inspection certification.



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