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Buyer needs to check city codes to make sure alterations can be made

April 21, 2017
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

I have been looking for a place where I can move with my large family, yet have some privacy as well. My wife's parents, one aunt and three dogs want to move in with us. This is in addition to my wife and three kids. We have found the most attractive option is to purchase a duplex, knock out part of the center wall and put in a door between the two sides. We will basically have one big house, but we also will have some separation. We put down $25,000 to purchase the property, and the closing is in two weeks. How does this sound to you?

- Michael P.

Dear Michael,

As a person with a relatively large family, I can relate to what you are seeking to accomplish. It would be great for your family members to be so close, but to have some separation as well. I grew up two doors down from my grandparents and it was an incredible blessing.

First, when entering a contract like this, you want to be sure that the contract contains sufficient contingencies to allow for you to cancel the contract if the conversion is not possible. There are several potential problems with your idea, most notably zoning. Since it is currently a duplex, we can assume the property is in a multi-family zoning district. If so, a single-family home may not be allowable without a zoning change or a variance, both of which would take time to ob-tain. Also, there is a good chance the application will be denied.

The city of Cape Coral also has regulations regarding what can go into a single-family home. The city may take a position that a single-family home can only have one stove, oven, etc. Additionally, there will be questions whether you can safely break through that wall or not, which also could lead to a city denial of the permit. The rules on this can be complicated, so engaging a contractor and attorney to assist is highly advisable.

You mentioned you put down $25,000 as a deposit. If you find that this conversion is not allowed, and the inspection period has already expired, you may be compelled to go forward with the purchase, even if you can't make the connection. In reality, this may not be a bad result, since you will have your family members right next door, in the same building. However, if the connection is vital, failing to go forward with the contract could lead to forfeiture of your significant deposit. You should look immediately to determine whether your proposal is allowable under city code, and whether you can exit the contract if it is not.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continued his service to the community through his chairmanship of the Harney Point Kiwanis Club KidsFest from 2011-2015, which provides a free day of fun and learning to thousands of Cape Coral families, and funds numerous scholarships. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 14 years, and they have four children together. Recently, he earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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