Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Buying a house with illegal constructions

Illegal "bedroom" at the back of the property.Personal archives
There is a generalized situation in California, related to the Real Estate desperation to sell properties everywhere. It is to sell properties with illegal constructions, sometimes outside as we can see in the example, sometimes inside. I'm sorry to say even in the property disclosure, the fact of illegality is not clearly shown. If the buyer has experience, suppose he is a general contractor, he will probably take the opportunity of illegality to drop the house price. It is important to know that the illegal square footage does not count for insurances, does not count for taxes, does not count for the real price of the house, as it has no record in the City Hall, and what is worst, there is a possibility that it cannot be legalized, in case the construction is not good or is affecting the house layout, the set backs, or ventilation, illumination, and so on. No need to say illegal constructions have never fire protection.
People usually buy houses considering the square footage they see (or they are told); the typical is the patio cover enclosed, converted into a family room. The best way to reverse this situation is to include in the disclosure a real record of the property, a record taken from Planning Department. As far as I've known, no realtor shows the records .........
What I found funny is that the disclosure has a question, if somebody has died in the property in the last three years, what seems a weird question, but considering all religions in California, people could think that a phantom is living inside. That's important, together with the earthquakes and landslides, tsunamis, but the house record seems not.(!)
Now, who is guilty in this situation? For the City Hall, the new homeowner is guilty and he has the obligation to legalize the property completely. If the illegal construction complies with the current Codes of Zoning and Building and Safety, it can be legalized without further problems, correcting whatever is wrong. If not, just wait for an order of demolition. If the homeowner do not demolish, he is sent to Court. If time goes by, and there is still no demolition, just wait to be sent to jail.
If any reader has a specific question, feel free to send me an email

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