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How do I deal with a city violation summon if the violation was not mine but of the seller whom I bought the house from?

Chicago, IL |

I bought a single family house last Nov. I received a summon for a fence violation this week. The fence was built last year when the house was being remodeled by the seller. At the time we bought the house, we found no such violation however an inspection done last March is holding me liable for 3 counts including a building permit violation dated April 2013. What should I do? Can I hold the seller liable for this? How about the home inspector (I feel they should have known this things)?

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Attorney answers 3


Regardless of who may be responsible for the cost or non-disclosure of the fence violation, you are the person who has received the Summons. In the eyes of the City of Chicago, you are the person who will bear the burden of this matter. Certainly you need to determine if the seller should be financially responsible and decide what he or she will do in this matter. The more important thing, however, is to make sure that you are prepared for the hearing and that you appear at the time of the hearing with whatever proof that the violation or violations have been corrected. It is not enough to just show up for the hearing and try to put the responsibility on someone else; without proper preparation, you can be fined for lack of compliance. If you were represented by an attorney at your closing, you need to consult with that attorney as to how to proceed. You may prefer to contact another attorney to determine your best course of action for the pending hearing. Many lawyers, including me, offer a free initial consultation for such matters.

Sara Howard is an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1983. Her practice concentrates primarily in adoption and family law as well as landlord tenant & real estate law. She is currently a member of the Chicago Bar Association's Adoption Law Committee, and a former bank attorney . Any response to a question on AVVO does not constitute an attorney client relationship, but is general information based on the limited information provided. Free initial consultations are offered.



What you said is true! The city does not care whether you are the person who is at fault. In their eyes, you are a way of getting money to make up for the inflating budget deficit to pay their incompetent employees! Sorry, but what I say is true based on this experience. They are casting blame on innocent homeowners/taxpayers like me! I am so disappointed with this matter as you can see! This has taken my faith away on the system of good governance of the City of Chicago! I also feel that my best interests were not protected in the first place by the same people I trusted when I was in the process of buying the house! Thank you for your reply on the question. I was finally (!!!!) able to get a hold of the lawyer who did my closing and they are reviewing the case. If I am not satisfied with my real estate attorney's services (the one who helped me close the house), I hope you will be available to help me. Your answer is very rational and to the point. Makes perfect sense.


Yes, the seller may be liable for these violations. I am not sure I agree that the home inspector should have been aware of the permit violation. When you mention "fence violation," I am not sure if you mean the fence is not correctly located, or it simply was installed without a permit. If the latter, and you had a survey done, the survey should have disclosed if the fence was not within the bounds of your property. You should discuss the situation with the attorney who represented you when you purchased the property. If you did not have an attorney, now is the time to hire one.

By the very nature of Avvo, you have only provided limited facts and no documentation, therefore, our response to your question is treated only as a hypothetical, and as such it is merely general in nature. You should not rely on this response in taking or forgoing action in your circumstances without discussing this matter with an attorney. If we had the opportunity to ask you sufficient questions and review relevant documents so that we were satisfied we had all of the relevant facts and circumstances, our response might differ significantly. Without the opportunity to ask you questions, and review all relevant documents and memoranda, we are simply unable to provide any form of legal advice. Our response to your question does not create any attorney-client relationship between us, and we are not acting as your attorney. We reserve the right to decline representation in any case. By answering your question, we are under no obligation to answer further questions. There are very specific deadlines for filing a lawsuit, replying to a lawsuit filed against you, or taking other action in order to preserve your legal rights. You should contact an attorney immediately in order to be fully advised of your rights, and so that you are aware of those deadlines. If you fail to act within the required time frame, you might be forever barred from asserting your rights or defending your position. The attorney answering this question is licensed in Illinois and Iowa only.



Thank you for your response. The violation was illegal construction of a fence without a permit. And then, they added other "accessory" violations like a stop work, etc. I even questioned the city, why now? They should have done the inspection after they issued the permit but they only gave reasons that I just don't buy. They could have protected me a taxpayer and a first time home buyer from such trouble and anxiety! I feel like they are all in connivance and I'm the victim! I believe the city is fishing for people and properties to fine without even considering the appropriateness of the accusations. They should go after the ones who made the mistake but instead the go after the innocent ones like me!


Your attorney should have seen this when the survey was reviewed prior to closing. I would talk to your attorney to find out what can be done. I wouldn't venture defending this matter or proceeding against the seller without an attorney. Things will be very fact-specific and document-oriented. Have some trained eyes look at things for you.

Please note that this answer is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or an offer to form an attorney-client relationship. It is always advisable to seek the help of an attorney licensed in your state before proceeding on any legal matter. Please feel free to contact me with the information listed below. Good luck! Napleton Law, Ltd. 312.255.0115



Thank you for your answer. It has been very helpful while I calculate my next steps to resolving this matter. I will definitely talk to real estate lawyer who worked with us during closing to find out what can we do.

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