The letter

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My Old House

In the last installment of My Old House, I told you how I found this cool old house, fell in love with it and bought it. In this installment, what happened next…

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So here I was, with this brand new “Old House”, what do I do now? The previous owner, Mr Stewart, had mentioned that I needed to contact the city for a permit, so off to city hall to find out how to do that.

Over the years, I learned that a permit was required when you  are doing work on a home that involves any of the “Systems” like electrical, plumbing and air conditioning.  If you are going to change something structurally or add square footage to your home, you will also need a permit.

Once at city hall, I was directed to the permitting area, and I spoke to one of the permitting clerks.  She informed me that there was already a permit issued for the property, so I ask the her, “what do I do now?”, She had a puzzled look on her face  as if to say, why are you asking me.  So I made the comment ” I guess I go to work” and off I went to figure out what to do next.

First things, first, I realized that I had to remove all the old stuff that was stored in the house and the stuff I wanted to replace. There were things like old appliances and old furniture, plywood that was used for counter-tops, old sinks etc.   On days when my grandmother could watch the boys, I worked on the house little by little cleaning up and pulling stuff out. Some days I would take the boys with me. It was a slow process, and I hadn’t done any “real” work yet.

The holidays came and went and I was still trying to figure out what I was doing, and how to go about all of this. I had mentioned to a couple of friends in the neighborhood that I had bought the house. One friend, Anne, said that her neighbor, Carl, was a contractor and she was sure he would be happy to give me some advice.  Soon after, I spoke to Carl and explained the situation.  He was kind enough to recommend what tools I should have and, gave me some sense of how wood frame houses were built.  Next stop… Sears Home Improvement Center, there were no “Lowes” or “Home Depot” back then.

Several days after speaking to Carl, it became apparent that the city finally caught up with the fact that, months earlier, the house had been sold.  I found this out when I showed up one day, tools in hand, to a new sign that was posted next to the others. I now had a pretty red sign that read…

STOP WORK!

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Yup, that’s what it said… stop work, by order of the director of planning and development, the reason, no permit for the work. After the initial shock and panic wore off, I called the phone number on the notice. I informed them that they were incorrect and in fact there was a permit. I recited the permit number and explained that I had gone to city hall to get one; that the  the clerk in their office told me there was already one issued, and I could work on the house. Remember, I am that fearless 22 year old!  This is the point where I found out that the sale of the house caught up with the permitting department and although there had been a permit, it had been issued to Mr. Stewart. The clerk in their office must not have understood when I said I had just bought the house and did not realize that I was not the owner listed on it. I was also informed that I would have to come down and obtain a new permit in my name. Okay, I can handle this, I thought, just a minor glitch in the learning process, until the letter came.

The letter came a few days later and was dated, of all things, April 1st.  It reiterated that the house had been cited as unfit and that the permits had been canceled. It went on to list all the areas that were listed on the original yellow tag.  Yes, no surprise here, I had already seen the new sign and called the city.

I read on… and in all capital letters…on the last page… it read …

“YOU HAVE  THIRTY DAYS TO OBTAIN PERMITS TO PERFORM REHABILITATIVE MEASURES… OR TO DEMOLISH…

I stopped mid-sentence, wait, what… demolish, yes I read it right, no one at the permit department said anything about demolish… I continued to read…

WHICHEVER APPROACH…SAID WORK MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN THIRTY DAYS FROM ISSUE DATE OF PERMIT…

and the worst part…

IN THE EVENT YOU… FAIL TO COMPLY… PURSUANT TO CITY CODE…IS AUTHORIZED TO … DEMOLISH… (there is that word again) SAID PREMISES RESULTING COSTS CONSTITUTING A LIEN ON SAID PROPERTY.

Included with the letter were copies of the notices that were posted on the house.

Now what, what was I going to do?  I was the one working on the house part-time as money was available. I was the one who had to do it, we did not have the means to hire a contractor or even consider trying to get it done in 60 days. Was the city just going to come in and tear down our house!? How could they do that, what gave them the right? While trying to figure out how I was going to accomplish everything in this letter,  I sat down and had a good cry. Although not very effective at getting the situation under control, crying did make me feel better.

Next up… Going to City Hall

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