Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Landlord Screws Tenant: Promised "Money Off Rent" To Lease Fixer-Upper, Couple Begins Repairing Home, Then Finds Out Premises Was Earlier Condemned By Code Enforcement & Now Faces Wrecking Ball

In Bucyrus, Ohio, the Telegraph-Forum reports:
  • Weeks of unpaid work behind them, a Bucyrus couple learned Wednesday [August 30] that they will never get to live in the house they labored to repair.

    The Bucyrus Board of Building Standards and Appeals met to discuss the home at 342 Wiley Street, a home they initially condemned in June. During Wednesday's appeal of that order, members of the board voted unanimously to uphold the condemnation, and ordered the home be torn down.

    The house, owned by Ken Long, caught the city's attention in March when someone notified the city of its deteriorated condition. After an inspection by Gordon Grove, the city's property maintenance officer, the city issued a property maintenance violation.

    "There were multiple issues with the property, including trash, rubbish, weed issues and structural issues," Grove said.

    The city then gained access to the home, and once inside, Grove realized the foundation of the house was unsafe. It didn't take long for the city to condemn the structure. Long, though, appealed, and earned 90 days to prove he could make the house safe.

    Shortly after, Jackson and Abbey Workman found an advertisement for reduced rent, as long as the tenants agreed to make a few repairs to the home, according to Bucyrus Law Director Rob Ratliff.

    "Their house was being foreclosed on, and they had 30 days to move," Ratliff said.

    Desperate, the couple wanted to make a deal with Long.

    "At first, we couldn't come up with the money," Abbey Workman said Wednesday during the appeal hearing. "(Long) said if we came up with the money, and it was still available, to give him a call."

    Long called the couple a few days later, and said he would accept $600 from them as a deposit for the already-condemned home.

    "Why did you give him the money?" Ratliff asked her.

    "To get the key," she responded.

    Workman told the appeals board that Long told them he would take care of the major, structural repairs to the home, "the hard stuff," as long as the couple handled cosmetic repairs: "I call it the pretty stuff, like the paint."

    "Did he explain to you that the house had previously been condemned?" Ratliff asked.

    "No," she answered.

    The couple, who admitted to city employees that they had no prior construction experience, were promised "money off the rent" for their help in the project. But with their foreclosure still looming, and repairs to their new home far from complete, Abbey said she and her husband realized the project was doomed.

    Things got worse when city employees noticed what Long was doing to the house. Ratliff made contact with the Workmans, and the city scheduled Wednesday's hearing.

    "We've asked him for our money back," Abbey Workman said. "He tells us, 'no,' he cant do that — he still thinks he can get the house done and put us in it, but we don't see that happening."

    Members of the appeals board weren't pleased with what they heard.

    "This is a waste or our time," Councilman Mark Makeever said. "This man has violated an agreement with our city — he's making these people do this work that a contractor should have to do."

    Makeever called for a vote to order Long tear down the house, "no exceptions." The board voted unanimously in favor of the order.

    "Now he has 30 days to demolish the property," Ratliff said. "If he fails to do so, he could be charged with criminal violations for failing to demolish the property."

    As for the Workmans, Ratliff said their best chance to recover their money is take Long to small claims court.

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