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Is real estate city code enforceable from the past?

Seattle, WA |

I purchased a house that is 30+ years old. There was some work to the hardscape that was done way back when the first owners purchased the house. It was up to city code back then. Now our neighbor brought in city inspector who says it is not up to current city code and need us to rectify it. My question is whether or not that is enforceable because it was up to city code when it was put in 30 years ago. Can you enforce current city code to something that was done in the past?

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

Generally speaking, if the construction was up to code at the time it was built (and assuming no alterations in the interim), the owner does not need to bring the item up to current code. However, without knowing exactly what the city inspector found, it is hard to say in your specific situation.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.

Asker

Posted

Frank, the issue is that the brick was covering their weep screed. We are on a zero lot line. Neighbors can't even see it but are being annoying. The brick was put in 30 years ago. The original owners were up to city code at the time. City codes change, but we should not be liable for something that changes over time.

Asker

Posted

Frank, sent you an email.

Posted

A agree with Attorney Chen. I would only add that something else sounds fishy here. Sometimes you can be required to upgrade your property, but there must be a triggering event. For instance, if you pull a permit to do some electrical work, you might be forced to upgrade a bunch of things you didn't plan on upgrading. What I have never seen is a situation where a neighbor brings in an inspector for something not on their property, unless its for illegal upgrades, etc. I recommend retaining local real estate counsel. The Parker Law Group is an excellent real estate firm right in your area. Good luck.

Asker

Posted

We told the city inspector that we purchased the house like this. He said that even though we did not do this, it is not up to city code and city codes always change. The issue is my neighbor complained that the hardscape is covering their weepscreed, something done by the first owners. The original owners were up to code 30 years ago. But I guess city code changes. So I am not sure why we have to up to current city code more than 30 years later, after we purchased the house like this. We reached out the the other owners and apparently this annoying neighbor has asked each one of them to do work for their financial gain. I told them to stop bothering us and we will not pay for what they claim are damages to their weep screed after they authorized us to remove the hardscape.

Dakin Neville Ferris

Dakin Neville Ferris

Posted

Again, I think you need counsel to go over the facts in more detail. That said, what the city inspector said sounds suspect for the reasons Mr. Chen puts forth. I would be inclined to wait until I got some sort of formal notice before I did anything. Maybe the inspector is your neighbor's cousin!

Asker

Posted

The inspector came from the city.

Posted

At first, I was going to respond that as long as nothing changed since the installation and it was up to code at that time, the City could not force you to bring it up to code now.
But, in one of your comments you mentioned something about removing some hardscape. If you did that, the City could now force you to bring it up to the current code.
Without knowing a lot more, you probably cannot get a complete answer on the AVVO site.
If the City is wrong in forcing you to bring the property into compliance, you will have an opportunity to respond. You should consult with a construction or real property attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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