Construction Litigation in a Post-Harvey World


As many Texans – especially Houstonians – know, the months of July, August, and even September can raise concerns about temperamental weather, especially hurricanes. With flooding concerns on the rise in many areas of Houston, it’s important to note that it’s not just homeowners who feel the pressure during these weather events; those in the construction industry also have concerns. The legalities and building regulations involved in a post-Harvey world are changing and will likely continue to change for those in the construction industry, as more storms (and more flooding) occur.

As many in Houston’s construction field know, the laws and regulations governing building in our thriving metropolitan area have continued to change since Hurricane Harvey. In the spring of 2018, it was announced that a Chapter 19 Amendment to the City of Houston’s Floodplain Ordinance would soon go into effect.

The Chapter 19 Amendment aimed to reduce any future flood damage by introducing more stringent building rules within Houston’s floodplains. Prior to the Amendment going into effect, homeowners in Houston’s 100-year floodplain were required to both carry flood insurance and to build new homes one foot above the floodplain. Now after the Amendment has gone into effect, the ordinance has increased the construction regulation from one foot above the floodplain to two feet and expanded these restrictions to homes within the 500-year floodplain.

The Chapter 19 Amendment isn’t the only new regulation that directly affects the construction industry in Houston. In September of this year, Tropical Storm Imelda dropped nearly 43 inches of rain in some parts of southeast Texas within 72 hours. After the storm, the Harris County Attorney’s Office announced it would be filing lawsuits against any homeowners or businesses in violation of the floodplain building rules under new authority granted by the Commissioners Court.

As of late September, the Harris County Attorney’s Office can pursue civil suits for building violations of county floodplain management regulations, such as inadequate elevation and construction undertaken without a permit or without first seeking permission from the Commissioners Court. This process can cause building delays of several weeks or longer, directly affecting Houston’s construction industry.

“If we’re serious about breaking the cycle of flooding and recovery, we must be able to use every tool we have at our disposal, including enforcement,” stated Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Though these continuing changes in building regulations could potentially help Houstonians deal with future major flooding, these changes will affect the construction industry moving forward as well.

Texas Construction Attorneys

In the fast-paced and high-stakes construction industry, skilled legal counsel is crucial. The construction lawyers at MehaffyWeber have significant experience handling these types of legal issues and can provide sophisticated and cost-effective solutions. We offer comprehensive legal services, from high-stakes negotiations to project counseling to handling disputed claims in court and arbitration. If your construction business could use the assistance of an experienced attorney, contact MehaffyWeber today.