West U Catches Up with Its Builders

Things have slowed down a bit in the West University Place building department: Only 20 new homes were permitted in the city last year. What to do with all the free time? Chief building official John Brown used some of it to pore over city records . . . and make a small discovery: Out of a grand total of 938 new homes built in West U this decade, 39 of them never received certificates of occupancy.

Instant News West U‘s Angela Grant reports that’s not so much of a problem yet for 5 of those homes — they were built in 2008 and haven’t sold. But what about the others?

Of the 34 homes that should legally have certificates, 14 homes — 41 percent — were constructed in 2000. Twenty-seven homes, or 79 percent, were constructed before 2005, when the city says the building department began professionalizing operations with the addition of key staff members.

How’d all this come up?


Grant reports that Covington Builders owner Robert Covington recently moved into a home his company was constructing — before it had received all of its required inspections.

Covington now faces a suspension of his license to work in West U. because Brown’s research in preparation for the hearing revealed that he had built 10 homes that had outstanding inspections and never earned certificates of occupancy. The commission gave him 30 days to fix the problems, or they will consider revoking his license. During the process, Brown unexpectedly found the homes by other builders that never earned certificates.

Photo of 3110 Cason St., built by Covington Builders: Instant News West U

19 Comment

  • Government working at it’s finest!

  • Wow, someone’s finally waking up to the fraud perpetuated by builders. These homeowners better hope that their houses are even capable of getting a final inspection after all this time. To allow someone to move into a home uninspected amounts to fraud and is likely a breach of the contract that the builder and purchaser signed. At this point in time the owners of those homes could sue for this; they now have to disclose this to a subsequent purchaser. This is a rampant problem in the city of houston, not just in West U. Some builders bank on purchasers never learning that the house is not inspected. Not only does this put the purchaser at a significant safety risk, but it risks the purchaser’s investment as well. I’ve seen this happen before: a house that doesn’t have proper inspections is worth nothing. Granted, there are many legitimate builders who make innocent mistakes and upon learning of their mistake quickly get the required inspections. Then there are others who do this as a matter of course.

    NEW HOMEBUYERS DO YOURSELVES A FAVOR: ask to see ALL the inspection records of a house before you buy. This is not the realtor’s responsibility (it amounts to giving legal advice), and while some great builders will be honest and won’t let you move in without the inspections, not all of them will. Then you’re left holding the bag and you end up owning a house that is unsafe and unmarketable at best.

  • To: houstonrealtor2010

    Chill out. I bet most missing inspection items are for the “tree hugger” ordinances.

    No one’s health and welfare is in jeopardy because the 4″ sapling is not in the front yard.

    The REAL issue is the boatload of zoning requirements W.U. has, all desgined to drive up the price of construction and the resulting building fees and property taxes.

    Oh, and the realtor fees too…….

  • To: Bozo the Builder

    Let’s hope you don’t get caught when your lack of inspections isn’t just for the 4″ sapling missing from the front yard.

    BTW, zoning and the way a home is constructed (i.e., whether it meets minimum code requirements) are two different things. Do your research.

    Good luck not getting caught.

  • houstonrealtor2010,

    If you think passing inspections make your home safe, I have some swamp land to sell you.

    City inspectors miss things all the time and their inspection is pretty much a walk through for the item they are looking for that particular inspection. Inspections are rarely ever thorough (especially for the City of Houston). Not passing inspection is usually for something completely obvious. Also, homes without a certificate of occupancy could still have passed all inspections and the certificate of occupancy just takes a while to come through or get acquired. That exact thing happened to me for my house in the City of Houston. All the inspections were passed and about 7 months later I got a tag on my door saying ok’d to occupy. Would you want to wait 7 months for a silly certificate after your home passed all inspections. 4 other home near me had the same thing happen. Considering about 600 patio/townhomes have been constructed in the area, the number is probably a lot higher.

  • In the City of Houston, you don’t actually get a “Certificate of Occupancy” for residential structures, which is part of the problem. HOWEVER, you should get the okay from your builder that your house is now ready for occupancy, which means that ALL inspections, including the final building permit inspection, have been completed and passed. There is a date in the city’s online records that show when the city actually went out to the house to conduct this inspection and whether it “passed”. If it “passed” before you moved in, then great. I would wonder why it took seven months. I would check online and see why it took so long. You would be surprised.

  • houstonrealtor2010,

    As I mentioned, various homes by various builders all passed each of the various inspections. The tags get posted on the home after each inspection on whether it passed or not. If it didn’t is specifies the issue found. Each inspection occurs in order and the final one was posted. Since the last inspection was posted, the builder can close the home, but the builder notified us that the online postings making it part of the official record occurred 7 months late. The City screwed it up as usually.

    I don’t deal with the building inspectors, but I do deal with the floodplain group a lot in my line of work as a hydrologic and hydraulic engineer. If you ever go down to the Code Enforcement offices at 3300 Main, you’ll realized the madhouse it is.

  • TO: kjb434
    I completely agree with you; it is a madhouse. I don’t disagree that the COH doesn’t mess up, because I’ve seen that happen. I also agree that the COH inspections are the absolute minimum you can get. My concern is just to get the word out that sometimes builders do allow the house to go to closing without (1) a final being conducted, and (2) informing the purchasers of that fact. As long as it happens prior to closing and the builder is honest and upfront, that’s great; I’m glad your builder was. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, especially since the COH is such a low standard.

    Thanks for your input.

  • So, the West U Garage Mahal movement wasn’t just ugly but also illegal? Hot damn.

  • To: houstonrealtor2010

    Tell me again how COO has nothing to do with city specific rules?!?!


    Bob “Bozo” Covingtion


    Seven of the 10 Covington Builders homes failed to earn certificates because Covington didn’t complete the final tree inspection, along with other inspections in some cases. On Sept. 1, Covington and Brown met with the city’s forester, who wanted the builder’s help gaining access to the backyards of multiple homes to count the trees that Covington had planted during construction. Covington refused to contact the homeowners.

    At the Feb. 4 hearing, he said through the decade as he built homes in West U., he spent thousands of dollars and brought in truckloads of trees to comply with the city’s laws.

  • Obviously if it takes 10 years for a bean counter to figure out that someone didn’t get the A-OK, it isn’t just the builder at fault. We are tryingto rebuild some carports at our 50 year old condo complex.
    Supposedly, no one ever file a plat with the City when this was built in 1960 or when it went condo in 1972. Hard to imagine but now we have to pay for a survey and a plat and a host of fees to the City of Houston. Just one more shakedown. If Ike had blown them down, we wouldn’t need a variance or anything but 50 years of poor drainage (the city repaved the street years ago and all the camber slopes to our property) has rotted the posts, etc……but that counts for nothing.

  • Bozo, what are you talking about? I said the building codes and zoning are 2 complete separate things. Sheesh, I really hope you’re not a homebuilder. I don’t think I’d want you building my house. No offense, but get real. I’m not talking about not planting some stupid trees. I’m talking about the major stuff that actually DOES impact safety. You want to continue to deny that inspections aren’t important?!?! Why don’t you admit to every single swamplot reader that a builder shouldn’t be required to perform inspections or build a house to code?! I bet that would garner some great business for your company. You clearly have something to hide. I hope someone busts you on it. I really do.

  • And by the way, why is it you “refused to contact the homeowners”? Is it because you told them all inspections were complete? If it’s not a big deal, you should have been upfront with the homeowners. You owed it to them, plain and simple. Now you just blew yourself up on swamplot.

  • On Sept. 1, Covington and Brown met with the city’s forester, who wanted the builder’s help gaining access to the backyards of multiple homes to count the trees that Covington had planted during construction.

    The city has a forester that inspects trees? Nice to know the city actually inspects something. I will say no more.

  • As a realtor who works in West U, I must speak up about the builders who were found to be in non-compliance with the COO provision. Both Robert Covington and David Crow are builders who are passionate about the houses they build and go the extra mile in trying to please a buyer. They have built some of the most beautiful homes available there and I always look forward to showing them when they come up as resales. I don’t like the tone of comments by another realtor who posted here in a rant. So count me as someone who admires these builders for the houses they build. That’s all I have to say on the subject.

  • HoustonRealtor2010… your posts are full of FUD, and little to no useful info. So what’s your REAL agenda here?

  • I don’t like the tone of comments by another realtor who posted here in a rant.

    Shame on him. We all know all realtors are to praise everyone no matter what. Question no one no matter what. More should question everyone including and particularly builders. Who really don’t have the best reputation despite all the “pep rallies” of the realtors who interstingly are regulated by the state while the builders are not.

    As for the process of final inspection the first affordable home built in Fourth Ward was basically condemned by the city several years later. Despite its final inspection. Says a lot. That few of course want to hear.

  • I don’t know anything about Covington’s compliance issues, but I suspect there’s less to it than meets the eye. He built a good house for me and he’s an honest guy who did the right thing whenever an issue came up.

  • Robert Covington is anything but an honest man — he is unethical and dishonest. Best of luck to those of you who were unlucky enough to buy a house from him.