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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete Builders Breaking the Rules

ST. PETERSBURG -- The safety and quality of housing in St. Petersburg is being questioned because a quarter of the city's construction companies break the law, a city official said.

"One in four construction companies in St. Petersburg builds houses in breach of the law, thus jeopardizing their quality and safety," web site Nevastroika quoted Alexander Ort, head of the city's construction permit and inspection agency, as saying in an interview.

In 2004, the agency monitored 1,500 construction sites and inspected 388 buildings. It found illegal construction and irregularities in 70 percent of these, he said.

"One of the principal violations is working without formal authorization from Gossanstroinadzor [the agency that issues building permits]," Ort said.

Construction companies work without permits because it is cheaper for them to pay a relatively small fine than to halt work for seven weeks while they obtain the necessary documents, have them processed and get permits, he said. The fines can range from 10,000 rubles to 30,000 rubles ($360 to $1,080), he said.

Several attempts to restructure Ort's agency so that it will lead to more compliance have been made in the past. Next year a federal body will be created that is supposed to oversee the work of regional agencies.

Putting the inspection and monitoring functions into one organization confuses the roles and may lead to even more breaches, Nevastroika quoted unnamed managers at the city agency as saying.

With regards to St. Petersburg, the federal law on building inspections says that houses lower than three stories are exempt from inspections. This means that much of the historic center of the city, not to mention one- and two-story elite residential projects, is not subject to official oversight.

Dmitry Barolin, general director of Northwest Construction, said the worst problems occurred among the many new companies in the city.

"Companies that have operated in St. Petersburg for a number of years have a good reputation and do not have problems with the quality of construction," he said.

He conceded that even well-established companies might not have all the necessary permits because the approval processes were very slow.

Construction companies would be happy to comply with stricter regulations, but would like the permit process to be shorter and simpler, Barolin said.