My inlaws have a home they purchased in the 1970's as a fixer upper. They moved in and started a family never finishing the home. It's become a point of contention for their now fully grown children and their father who has never completed the work required. The home has an unfinished floor, walls, electric, no central heat or air and the rear is missing siding. Basically it's been inhabited for almost 40 years without anyone finishing anything notable.
We came out to the home for the holidays this year and they have a live outlet dangling from the rear of the home with a power cable plugged in and sitting in the snow. This receptacle itself is dangling from a rear awning where the roof has given in to the elements so the outlet is even exposed to the world. Forget a GFI outlet, I don't even know if the home has a grounding wire. Basically, its a disaster.
I'm curious to see what it would take to pay a couple of contractors to finish the home but to do that I need to bring contractors into the house. I'm very concerned that this could spell trouble for the inlaws with their township if word gets out the house is so severely unfinished but inhabited.
Is it possible to have a contractor sign an NDA for something like this? I know contractors have licenses and I don't know if they are required to disclose building violations like this. Is it really a requirement that certified contractors report building code violations they stumble across? Would it even be enforceable if the contractors did go to the town to report the violations? This is in Michigan.
To clarify, I do not want to purchase the home from them, I want to help them finish it so it's safer for them in their old age. I also do not want to get ANY government official involved in the process for fear that they will be forced to leave the home and won't be in a position to afford a place to live in the interim.
What is a NDA? A non disclosure agreement? No contractor in their right mind would sign anything like that.
You do not say what area of the country this is, whether this is rural or urban? Prices are contingent on this as well as a lot of information on the scope of work that has not been given.
People live in what some people describe as unfinished homes all the time. Even a lack of central heat and air is not unheard of. The electrical does sound hazardous but that can be handled by an electrician. Will they permit one to come and take care of that?
It sounds like this is an on going problem and you should approach this as a safety concern only and not get involved in anything else.
Do they even have the money to pay a contractor?
I agree with Metwo: address your concerns from a safety perspective. I expect they very well know that they live in an accident waiting to happen, but don't care enough to do anything about it.
If you want to play hardball, you could always make a report of the unsafe structure to the city codes/building safety department for housing violations. If they find it to be dilapidated, they'll revoke occupancy until your in-laws make the necessary repairs.
'Course, that'll make you the "bad guy" if they learn you were the one that made the report. Those who employ "tough love" are often ostracized. Can you live with that?
I cannot imagine that they could do any electrical work to the outside without " bringing it up to code"! I do not think that they have to "report" it to anyone....but I also think that they will not work on it without following the rules.
Some repairs will require permits depending on the city/township/village in MI. Some will not, if a permit is required it is an invitation for the building inspector to come on to the property. Some repairs do not require permits so no inspection.
The contractors will be able to tell you which repairs are which. The electrical "repair" which is to secure the outlet and perhaps replace it with a covered outdoors outlet is probably one that won't require an inspection.
Installing a first time heating unit is probably going to require a permit and inspection. Flooring/drywall repair are more than likely considered cosmetic and it is doubtful they would require a permit.
But it really depends on the local ordinances. Most authorities have a good idea which properties are in disrepair...I am surprised they got a C of O without heat. Was this a cottage when they bought it?
There are sparsely populated areas in Michigan just as there are in many other states. There are many regions that do not require a certificate of occupancy, do not have inspections even though they require a permit. There are ways to heat a house without having a central heating system.
I think we are assuming things that we do not know. There is just too little information and we are only getting one persons opinion of the situation. The only thing that causes concern is the electrical and an electrician can fix that.
Huge difference between hazardous unfinished house and cosmetics unfinished house.
First, I would have concerns of their safety, as well as their visitors..which if someone gets hurt they may be liable for hospital bills.
There is confusion however if it is a matter of
"just procrastinating" OR "lack of funds" in
completing repairs. That wasn't clear.
If they are senior citizens, there are local agencies that help with repairs at the homestead. I would not fear anyone willing to lend a hand who is licensed to do the work.
If it were me, I would start calling small licensed companies who may be willing to give a big break for seniors...who may be low on funds.
Many people live by the old adage "Do good, get good".
Missed the "central" heat and read no heat. There are indeed many perfectly safe ways to heat without a central heating system.
I a very familiar with MI's demographics...I own property in both the lower and upper up. The original post specifically mentioned permits and "building code violations".
I can only speak to my experience. That is anywhere we have been required to pull a permit we have had to pass a building department inspection to be sure the work met code.
I understand Lakelark. We can only speak from our experience. I have lived where there are inspections and also where once you pay for the permit, there are never any inspections. That is why I said there is just not enough information. I believe the OP is also speaking from her point of reference too which seems to be more urban in nature.
We also don't know if this is a result of lack of funds or lack of motivation. Apparently it has been a bone of contention in the family for years.
That's what I'm afraid of and yet I'm concerned for the safety of the folks who live there. It's a double edged sword, if I don't say anything their safety is at risk and if I do say something they could be homeless.
I stated it was in Michigan. Good old USA. It's outside the detroit area in one of the suburbs but for obvious reasons I'm not going to say more.
This is an extremely unfinished home. They use heaters commonly found in a mechanics garage to heat the home. There is no drywall completed, no flooring completed, no electric completed (properly), although they do have electric run without proper mounting. Bringing an Electrician out might would only be an option if I paid for it, they wouldn't ever pay someone to help fix something.
I think some pictures of the home might help paint a better picture of what we are dealing with.
I'll try and snag a picture of the rotting roof outdoors where the outlet (which is in use) is exposed.
Frankly, I have no idea. Both the husband and wife were raised in absolute poverty having worked their entire lives to overcome that and have built wonderful lives for their children. The home was purchased for $12k in the 1970's and the husband turned it from a Ranch into a two story home.
Even if they could afford the rent on another home while this is fixed up, I don't think the husband would pay for it. It's more likely he would stubbornly sleep in the family van. So my worries about their safety are double edged, both concerns about their safety in the home and whatever poor decisions they may make if they are forced out of it.
I don't mind being the bad guy if I knew it would help. I do mind taking any risk on that and I am very unfamiliar with building code and how the regulations work. I don't want anyone to be homeless.
That's what I'm afraid of! The home's outlets are powered by conduit that's not properly run through the wood frame of the house. In a couple of instances it freely hangs over doorways ready to be snagged on anything that crosses it's path.
I do not want to be unkind....but you are dealing with a much more serious problem than some electrical/construction issues! You must care greatly for these folks based on the fact that you visit them. I could not do that.
Before you ever consider spending any money on making corrections, the place must be cleaned up. I am stunned that they have not had a fire. My heart goes out to you. This is a serious problem.
Am I safe assuming that if I ask an electrician for an on site visit for an estimate he would report to the city if the home is unsafe and requires permits?
It was a cottage when they bought it.
This is not a sparsely populated part of Michigan. There are half million dollar houses on their block. It's unbelievable inside but from the front it's not noticeable.
I appreciate the feedback... It's nice to know I'm not crazy for also thinking this place is disgusting. Still they are kind people and I want to try and help...
Here is a Video of the hole in roof taken tonight while it was dark out. I'll try to get a better video done in the morning but this does show the rear awning with the hole in it and the active electric.
This family really needs help! How could they live in those conditions? It makes me very sad to see people live in these kind of conditions. I say if you want to help get the home up into code. Pay for their stay in a extended say hotel until the home is repaired to where they can live in the home. I am surprised that their neighbors haven't reported them. I would think a home in that condition would smell? Are there any volunteers in your area that could help them?
From what I can see..this home is unfit for human habitation. If someone from outside the family sees this home it would quite likely be reported as such. I say this based on the trash/rubbish/debris...not the code violations.
Can you get help with getting rid of the junk? Get a dumpster and get to work. THEN you can address the serious electrical and construction issues.
Building codes exist for one reason - safety! Wiring requirements lessen the chance of fire; insulation and drywall requirements slow the spread of fire. The amount of debris in the house hinders egress in case of an emergency. The photos you posted don't show a fire waiting to happen, they show an explosive fire long overdue.
You mention adult children - why have they done nothing? How will you all feel when - NOT IF - the inevitable happens? When people are killing themselves with drugs and alcohol, family members who care have an intervention to save lives; this situation is no different. You don't have time to make this a New Year's resolution. DO IT NOW!
We cleaned up the second floor of the home. The hallway is now clear of all debris. As for the kitchen... It's really disgusting... I scrubbed down some of the wood with lysol wipes but it's basically putting a bandaid on a broken bone.
More pictures coming today of the outlet... I'll snap a few when time permits.
They do not have gas in the home, just electric, the outside electric being improperly used and the kerosene lamps are my largest concerns of fire hazard. The kerosene lamps are especially scary because they are placed on the water heater over a small electric heater. Does anyone have a recommendation for how to store those? I have never seen one in person, I imagine these are 40 years old.
Hoarding is a desease Unfortunately, Hoarders don't see the clutter and in all probability, will be very upset if anything is taken away. You are the judge of that. Can your wife speak to them and get their permission to fix the house? They will probably have to move out while you get a dumpster and clean out most of what your wife thinks it should be taken out. Here were I live Code enforcement does not make you provide the name of the person that files the complaint. I don't see in any of your posts that you or your wife have had any kind of conversation regarding any of this with her parents. Because if they don't want to do anything, then there is little that you both can do.
Why are they using kerosene lamps, if they have electric?
If they added a second floor, who was that contractor? Could they call him? Was the second story done with permits? Is this a concern as well?
Personally if they were related to me, I would have gotten family members together early on.
I do understand stubborness, however, as when
my Dad was in his 90's and still living alone and still cleaning his guns, we had to find a way to get the guns and bullets out of the house. The family was told to mind their own business.
We had the same problem with him taking off in
his truck. My point is we realize it is hard for family members to try to help when help is not asked for or even welcomed.
I agree, proceed with clearing debris and cleaning and I would get the kerosene lamps out of the house.
If they are hoarders maybe they could barter items for eelctric and roof work.This message has been edited. Last edited by: real estate lady,
Do you think anyone would barter for an original 1970's oven still new in the box?
They aren't using them at the moment, they keep them in case of a power outage in the area.
The family agree's that the second floor was added by the husband without assistance of contractors. I don't see how that's humanely possible given the steel I-Beam that was added to handle the load.
The adult children are still financially dependant on their father for the moment, though this is rapidly changing which is why I wanted to help them in a year if we were in a position.
I'm sorry to hear it got to that point for your family. I'm hopeful their father will accept our help so he doesn't die in this mess.
Kerosene is probably not something I should dispose of in the trash, is there a proper way you know of to dispose of it?
I took some photo's of the outside but I'm afraid of showing too much publicly and having someone recognize the home or neighborhood. The best I can do is this shot of the roof and power outlet from the rear awning: http://imgur.com/cOudfJM
As much as you wish to help, if they don't want you to help you won't be able to. I sincerely believe that your wife their daughter is probably the one that could convince them into doing anything. I really understand your concern and they are very lucky to have you both that want to help them. MY sister in law was like that, and until she passed, her husband couldn't do anything, afterward it took almost a year to clean and declutter the house.
if the kerosene lamps are unique and older, sell them on craigslist. Same for the oven..use the money for repairs.
If the neighborhood has like million dollar homes... is the lot of great value? Get them out of there in a rental, sell the property as is..I am thinking. Could the house be a tear down?
The reason I am saying this is...now we have discoverd ..no permit for second story. See I knew there was something..else.
I would consult a Realtor..to see if any houses
sold as is and for what amount- over the phone.
You may be able to do yourself per public record info online in their county.
You are correct to be cautious about what pictures you post. Already based on what you have stated I probably live remarkably close to your in-laws.
The kerosene is a minor issue in this property...store it on a metal self away from any any flame and away from any heaters or electrical outlets.
Contractors will not typically report people to the township. Although your in laws are hoarders and so some may feel an obligation to report them for your in-laws own safety.
Your in-laws are creating a hazard not only for themselves but their neighbors. The next time the township takes aerial photos they will spot the falling roof and then they will come on to the property. Once they find a reason to enter the property they will more than likely condemn it without some proactive action on the families part.
Depending on the foundation there is nothing that can't be remedied it is just a matter of what you are willing to spend to do it. In our area even the issue of no permit can be remedied without tearing the structure down if it was done correctly. You will need a good contractor to walk you through everything. The first place to start is with cleaning so that you can determine what actually needs to be done.
Sorry if I sound harsh but your in-laws are due an intervention. Sooner or later the neighbors will begin calling and complaining.
It is just a matter of which tragic event will happen first.
We were told that someone has complained about the rear of the home to the town and that they already received a fine. The husband plans to tear down the rear awning in the spring, hopefully he does it before there is a fire.
I left without being able to fix much. I pointed out the mold/bacteria in the home caused by the water damage, asked if I could turn off the breaker to the outlet outside and tried to see if I could remove the kerosene. I was told the mold/bacteria was nothing to be concerned about. That the circuit would be turned off after we left and that the kerosene lamps were important. The wife told me that if I threw out the lamps the husband might drive two states over to confront me over such an offense.
Frankly, I can't help those who refuse to help themselves to some degree. Hopefully the city intervenes without my involvement because I won't do it to them knowing he would stubbornly sleep in a van before he would ever live somewhere else.
..and so ..there you have it.
As a man thinketh so is he.
We were all correct, when you encounter individuals that for one reason or another become hoarders, there is nothing you can do. They actually need counseling. They can't see what you see.
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