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Addition built without permits, inspections is an issue

December 8, 2017
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

I am planning to purchase a home in Cape Coral. Everything came back from the title company clear, except for two ongoing code enforcement matters by the city. One is for an addition built without permits and inspections, the other for overgrowth in the back yard. The sellers have cleared the back yard issue, and they also said not to worry because the addition was there when they bought the house, so it is grandfathered. Can I go forward with the purchase without worry?

- Stacey H.

Dear Stacey:

Congratulations on your decision to buy a home here. Cape Coral is known for its great weather, low crime rate and our rules. Code enforcement is responsible for ensuring the rules are followed. While a few residents find the city's rules harsh, most people I speak with appreciate the intent of these rules, which is to keep our city as attractive and safe as possible.

First, addressing the overgrowth issue, it sounds like your neighbor has rectified this situation. However, you will want an official letter or ruling from the city stating that the violation has been corrected, and that no fine will be assessed. Such fines are assessed the property, and not individuals. So, if you take over the house and a fine is pending, it will be your responsibility. Even if this results in a delay in closing, demand that this overgrowth issue is resolved to your satisfaction.

The addition on the home without a permit is of much greater concern. The city is charged with inspecting new construction, electrical and other major changes made to a structure to make sure state and local codes are followed. Items checked for by city inspectors include wind resistance and fire safety. If the city was never provided plans, and cannot determine how the addition was constructed, they may have a legitimate concern for your safety. Remedies could include anything from fines to an order to remove the addition. Basically, you cannot take the owner's directive of "not to worry" you should worry about the safety of the addition to your family, and the potential liability to the city. Just like with overgrowth, I would require the sellers to provide proof from the city that the addition can legally remain, and with no fines assessed to you as the new property owner.

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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