Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

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Latest post 02-07-2013 5:02 PM by DPH. 19 replies.
  • 02-05-2013 1:39 PM

    Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    This is a convoluted situation so please bear with me here.  Nearly 6 years ago, I bought a home and the seller's agent also happened to live next door. At the time, she told us what a wonderful place it is to live and described in great detail how well the municipality takes care of our street.

    Shortly after we moved in (within just a few months) she moved out of her home and we came to realize that the municipality considered our street to be a private road thus refuses to do any maintenance. We were told by the municipality that the homeowners literally own the road itself thus are responsible for all maintenance. The fact that the realtor lied to us is secondary, however, to the fact that her abandoned house creates a myriad of safety hazards for the other residents, not to mention devalues our property.

    The home is infested by wildlife and vermin and is very overgrown. The property must be at least partially maintained by the rest of us (the other residents) to prevent the brush and weeds from damaging our vehicles when we drive by. It's a narrow, dead-end street and hers is the first home so there's no way to leave or enter our homes without passing her property. In addition, water flows freely from the foundation of the home onto the road below. In warm months, this washes away dirt and gravel, creating potholes and huge dips in the road so the rest of us have to physically and financially maintain the road to a far greater extent than we would if she obeyed the law.

    In cold months, that water flow can ice over into a sheet nearly a foot thick. There has been vehicle damage and bodily injury due to this. At times, the road is impassable because of this, which traps residents in their homes or prevents them from reaching home (and likely would prevent a fire truck or ambulance from reaching us as well).

    The municipality is pursuing this individual to no avail and tells us that it may take years for there to be any improvement. In the meantime, they will not take any responsibility for problems being caused by the property and won't even salt the ice patches or provide us with a salt box.

    We've reported her to the local health department, state real estate commission and others. We complained to the mortgage company. We've contacted our state and local representatives for assistance but nobody seems to be able do anything.

    Attempts to contact this individual are ignored, except when they go through her employer (a large and well-known real estate agency). Only then does she occasionally respond to the emails but still makes no improvements. I've contacted her superiors at the agency and politely requested their intervention on 3 occasions over a period of nearly 2 years, also to no avail.

    Is it acceptable for an agent to profit handsomely from selling property in this area while single-handedly devaluing the property of her neighbors? I would hope this is actionable under the realtors code of ethics, but I do not know if I can file a complaint for this. I also believe her employer has some responsibility here in that they allowed her to sell us a property and then begin devaluing our investment almost immediately. I don't want to file frivolous complaints but the other residents are at their wits end here. We're going broke trying to maintain her property and there's been at least 1 trip to the emergency room due to her negligence.

    I'm in Pennsylvania, if that matters. Also, there is additional damage to the road because the same municipality that refuses to do maintenance on our road has all their storm sewers from the much larger road above just dumping directly down onto us. All water runs down the hill from above, washing out our street yet they want to say it's our problem. Obviously we have 2 huge issues here and the residents are desperate. Anything you can tell me will be appreciated.

  • 02-05-2013 2:05 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 49,485

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    In many communities the squeaky wheel gets greased.  How to address "abandoned"  or unsafe properties can be a big practical problem in my  area of PA too --seems some property owners have mastered the art of doing just enough to stay head of jail and major fines.

    If its a private road its most unlikely the town wants to maintain or clear it  or take it as a free gift.

    But to beat a bad owner into submission is a bit of a numbers game --I can tell you that if a small block action group makes it their mission to force a bad owner to bring a building up to safety/building codes that it can be done -takes time and constant action with city hall  --and perhaps even social media  and press as to bad owners --kids at risk or use as a drug den may speed things up---its sort of like blockwatch on steroids --and somebody at every meeting of city council etc.  City can move pretty quickly IF its gets right polite prod..and/or pile on massive liens against property and force a sale. .

    Locally there is even a sort of blog site public hall of shame -pictures +  facts + names  ----sometimes works



  • 02-05-2013 2:24 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    This sounds like a mess that is way beyond what can be handled on this forum.

    I think you and your neighbors need to band together and consult at least two experts, an engineer and a lawyer (in that order).  Both should have expertise in surface-water drainage issues.  Ask the engineer where all the water is coming from and what he thinks should be done to get it under control and properly managed.  Then show the lawyer the engineer's report and ask who is legally responsible for the problem(s) and what are your options for enforcing your rights.

    Good luck!

  • 02-05-2013 2:44 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    PghGirl412:
    The property must be at least partially maintained by the rest of us (the other residents) to prevent the brush and weeds from damaging our vehicles when we drive by.

    The weeds along the road are probably everyone's responsibility to deal with, legally, since they are almost certainly growing on the road property (if the road is its own separate piece of property) or right-of-way (if the road is on an easement).  You should be able to figure this out by looking at the plat map, a copy of which should have been included in your title report when you bought your home.  There might also be a road-maintenance agreement in there as well.

    PghGirl412:
    water flows freely from the foundation of the home onto the road below. In warm months, this washes away dirt and gravel, creating potholes and huge dips in the road

    PghGirl412:
    In cold months, that water flow can ice over into a sheet nearly a foot thick.

    One has to wonder why this realtor didn't try hard to get you to buy HER home!  Seriously, if water is flowing freely from the home's foundation in the quantities you describe, she is probably the victim of either a bad builder or the city road department's negligence.  Can you find out whether she is suing anyone over her uninhabitable house?

     

  • 02-05-2013 3:20 PM In reply to

    • DPH
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    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    PghGirl412:
    The home is infested by wildlife and vermin and is very overgrown

    Has anybody looked into various city codes regarding abandoned property and/or lack of maintnence?  In my town if your grass gets too long or the house begins to rundown or is abandoned, there are mechinisms in place to take care of those situations.  Does your town/city have a code enforcement officer?  If so, what do they have to say about it?  If no one has brought it to there attention, do so immediately.

    PghGirl412:
    water flows freely from the foundation of the home

    Are you saying that this is running water like if you left a faucet on outside or seepage?  Too different possibilities.  Does anybody know if water service is still on at the house?  if so, and nobody is living there, make a commando raid and turn water off at the meter.  Then see what happens.

    PghGirl412:
    likely would prevent a fire truck or ambulance from reaching us as well).
     

    Go have that discussion with the fire and police departments, plus the City Attorney. 

    PghGirl412:
    Obviously we have 2 huge issues here and the residents are desperate. Anything you can tell me will be appreciated.

    Maybe it's time to go to local media and shine some unfavorable light on the city.  Nothing motivates a politician like some bad press.

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

  • 02-05-2013 3:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    Just so you know, I've lived on private roads for a long time (all three houses I've owned and lived in since 1992).  The first two we maintained ourselves, since we were the only property actually using those roads while we lived in those houses.  Where we are now, there are 11 properties on the road.  Most owners do cut back the brush in front of their properties periodically, but two single-women owners have trouble keeping up with theirs so we have occasional road "work parties" where the guys with chainsaws clean up brush, leaning saplings, broken branches, etc. and everyone helps fill potholes and rake out washboards.

    My county has rules for taking over private roads.  They boil down to (1) the road must serve at least 5 properties and (2) it must be built to their standards when you apply to turn it over to them.  Your city (are you inside the city limits?) probably has rules of its own that you can ask about.

     

  • 02-06-2013 8:00 AM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    karen2222:

    Seriously, if water is flowing freely from the home's foundation in the quantities you describe, she is probably the victim of either a bad builder or the city road department's negligence.  Can you find out whether she is suing anyone over her uninhabitable house?

    What's weird about this situation is that the home was intentionally built with a spring running through the basement. I know the man who's parents built it & he lives nearby. There's nothing wrong with the house except for her neglect -- it's full of garbage & has massive damage caused by animals being in there. But this water is actually a result of her blocking the spring's flow into her basement & cistern a few years ago, which diverts the flow around her foundation & onto the road. Two different contractors refused to do the work but then she found one who would do this expensive project for just pennies on the dollar, above the objections of the rest of us.

    So the spring that used to flow into her basement & into a specially constructed cistern has been intentionally diverted to wreak havoc on the rest of us. This woman is a complete nut & we were all very happy when she left -- until it became clear she wasn't even considering renting or selling the place.

  • 02-06-2013 8:04 AM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    DPH:

    Maybe it's time to go to local media and shine some unfavorable light on the city.  Nothing motivates a politician like some bad press.

    That's my next step because we don't know what else to do. The police chief used to force the road crew to clear in front of her home when it got too bad in the winter but he retired & the new one is a jerk. He told me a 12 inch sheet of ice wouldn't stop a fire truck or ambulance so it's not a safety issue, even on a one-lane, uneven dirt road with a steep hillside drop-off along the entire road. Of course, the residents of the street beg to differ but he's at the top of the chain & there's nobody above him.

    We've contacted state & county reps to no avail, the local commissioner, the borough manager, police, fire dept, health dept, everyone we can think of so I guess the only place left to go is the media. I think you've hit the nail on the head with that suggestion.

     

  • 02-06-2013 8:37 AM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
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    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    If the fire department refuses to send its trucks down an icy private lane that could be a serious point in your favor. But I'd try to address it before it actually happens!  Keep good photo records --- I've gotten some interesting reactions via a polite discussion with Deputy fire chief or local codes/fire inspector --try what works in your community.

    It may well be the duty of the contiguous property owners to maintain safe passage on that private driveway.

    Many towns have adopted some form of property maintenance code .Can be used to drive a recalcitrant owner nuts IF somebody in City Hall digs in.

    Your neighbors insurance is likely to go thru the cost roof or get dropped IF her insurance company finds out the place is uninhabited --if you can think of ways to alert her carrier--so be it. 

    Is you neighbor current on her local taxes --often a public record  ---empty properties that go tax delinquent for long times can be big problem for town to collect....

    Ditto, check water --in my  town, if the water were to be cut off the CO gets lifted as well and that can trigger entire building must be brought up to new code --deadly if enforced against many an older building.  Water flow in basement is probably inconsistent with current codes. 

    A few squirrels running in and out may not get any real attention  --but if you mean rats and feral animals and have pictures of same it might be different.  And if young kids or thugs have made use of property for unsafe or illegal purposes that might get attention in some places.

     

    Hey, picket lines with informational signs and pictures in places where it is lawful to picket ?



  • 02-06-2013 10:18 AM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    PghGirl412:
    What's weird about this situation is that the home was intentionally built with a spring running through the basement. I know the man who's parents built it & he lives nearby. There's nothing wrong with the house except for her neglect -- it's full of garbage & has massive damage caused by animals being in there.

    This doesn't make sense unless she is mentally ill, and her still working at a major real estate company argues against that being the case.  Have you tried actually sitting down with her and asking her - nicely - why she moved out?  Do you know whether any governmental agency, maybe the health department, has red-tagged the house?  Getting your household water from a surface spring is generally not considered the safest;  the water  is too easily contaminated for it to be a good idea to drink it.

    PghGirl412:
    So the spring that used to flow into her basement & into a specially constructed cistern has been intentionally diverted to wreak havoc on the rest of us.

    Was the cistern her household water supply source?  Did it have an overflow, and if so, do you know where the overflow was directed?

    I still say you need to consult a lawyer about this spring, and an engineer as well as the lawyer about any other problem water if you are not sure where it is coming from.  I don't think a property owner with a natural spring on her property is responsible for protecting everyone from that natural spring, but I'm not sure how that applies if the spring was once redirected to make it more benign and then the property owner again changes the flow, in a less-benign way.

    I'd say you could avoid the hassle and expense of paying a lawyer and just put a culvert under the road, but before you do that you'd want to make sure to do it in a way that keeps you safe from lawsuits by the downslope property owner(!)

  • 02-06-2013 11:01 AM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    PghGirl412:
    The police chief used to force the road crew to clear in front of her home when it got too bad in the winter but he retired & the new one is a jerk.

    What you don't seem to understand yet is that if your road is indeed a PRIVATE road, no public road crew has any obligation to do A THING with that road, and in fact could get in trouble for using taxpayer resources improperly on maintaining a road that is not their responsibility.  If the fire department refuses to come in, YOU and your neighbors would be responsible for improving the road to the point where they will come in, or face increased homeowners' insurance rates or even cancellation.

    If you go to the media, and your road is a private road, either they will tell you they are not interested or they and you will get egg on your faces for kicking up a fuss about a problem that is your responsibility to deal with.

    Your situation sounds rural and not urban.  Are your properties all inside the city limits?  Were they inside the city limits when the houses were built?  Are you all on city water and sewer?  Were you all on city water and sewer when the houses were originally built?  Just wondering.

  • 02-06-2013 1:21 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    karen2222:

    What you don't seem to understand yet is that if your road is indeed a PRIVATE road, no public road crew has any obligation to do A THING with that road, and in fact could get in trouble for using taxpayer resources improperly on maintaining a road that is not their responsibility.  If the fire department refuses to come in, YOU and your neighbors would be responsible for improving the road to the point where they will come in, or face increased homeowners' insurance rates or even cancellation.

    I don't think you understand the situation. It's a private road BUT the Township has the storm drains from public, paved, crowded & high-traffic roads dumping down onto our road. They can't have it both ways: If residents are solely responsible for all upkeep of this street, then the Township can't dump water on us that causes damage far beyond normal wear & tear. There's no legal standing for us to be physically & financially responsible for damage to our road caused by their illegal dumping of wastewater. Period.

    The Township says they don't have the money to correct the illegal drains yet simply ignores this fact when they refuse to do maintenance on our road. They do in fact have a responsibility to chip in for some of the maintenance. They should in fact be spending some of the tax dollars to rectify that damage sincethey are saving untold sums of money (at our expense) by having this illegal drainage system in the first place.

  • 02-06-2013 1:34 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    karen2222:

    If you go to the media, and your road is a private road, either they will tell you they are not interested or they and you will get egg on your faces for kicking up a fuss about a problem that is your responsibility to deal with.

    Another point I'd like to make here is that the home has been abandoned for almost 6 years and it's neglect has caused both bodily injury & property damage to other residents, not to mention enormous & unreasonable inconvenience as well as significantly decreasing everyone else's property value.

    By NOT pursuing the absentee owner, the Township does seem to have some responsibility here. We've been complaining about this place for more than 5 1/2 years. That's plenty of time for the Township to have taken action to take possession & sell the house at Sheriff's sale yet they do nothing. People are getting injured, vehicles are being damaged, people are trapped at home (or prevented from getting to their homes), we're subject to criminals & squatters sneaking around it at all hours of the day & night as well as numerous other issues.

    As taxpayers, the municipality in which we live is obligated to assist us in rectifying this situation so their refusal to do anything to her makes them partially responsible for the current problems.

  • 02-06-2013 3:03 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    PghGirl412:
    It's a private road BUT the Township has the storm drains from public, paved, crowded & high-traffic roads dumping down onto our road.

    Can you prove this?  If true, their responsibility is to redirect their water in an acceptable manner, not to maintain your private road or correct problems created by water coming from a natural spring.

  • 02-06-2013 3:29 PM In reply to

    Re: Abandoned property owned by realtor who sold me my house

    karen2222:

    Can you prove this?  If true, their responsibility is to redirect their water in an acceptable manner, not to maintain your private road or correct problems created by water coming from a natural spring.

    Yes, we have pictures, video & can actually climb the hill behind our home to see it. Some of the storm drains in the road above are just grates in the road that empty directly onto our hillside, creating channels that run down the hill onto our street; Others go into pvc pipe that crosses the hillside but those pipes ultimately end into open space on the hill behind our homes, then flows down that hill in channels, directly onto our road. Private homeowners who live along that upper street are also doing it -- many have flexible pipe attached to their gutters & downspout leading directly to those same channels & flowing down onto us/our street.

    We've complained in the past (which resulted in the pvc pipes) but it all still ends up in the same place. This is 100% stormwater from other roads & not natural springs.

    Residents have contacted every state agency imaginable but nobody will force the Township to do anything about it because they insist they just can't afford to fix it & apparently get mercy for that. This drainage was the cause of landslides on a major road for years & a permanent fix by my Township was supposed to be part of a recent PennDOT project but after years of back-and-forth, PennDOT ultimately found a way to disperse the water flowing down over my street to their road below without requiring our municipality to do the right thing by us. So they got off the hook, the larger problem affecting many more people was resolved & we just get lost in the shuffle.

    I've been trying to find an attorney willing to even consult with us on this but they all keep telling me they don't do "this" kind of real estate law. Most represent municipalities fighting property owners or they fight tax assessments or represent builders. I get the runaround from the state & county & we are just outside of the city limits so no help there. We're in a Pittsburgh suburb less than 5 miles from downtown Pgh & not even close to rural so this is a very unusual situation.

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