Home > Politics and building codes > Playing Politics Results in Punishment

Playing Politics Results in Punishment

March 24th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Too often political considerations interfere with the ability of building code officials to do their jobs in an appropriate manner. Most of the time this type of behavior goes unpunished. It often consists of not enforcing the code against “protected” person or companies or harshly enforcing the code against opponents. Sometimes, however, an aggrieved party files a lawsuit against the offenders. This happened in Dorr v. City of Ecorse, 2008 WL 5397760(C.A. 6 (Mich.))(2008) when a property owner sued the city and its mayor for the denial of a certificate of occupancy under the Civil Rights Acts. The plaintiff and the mayor were neighbors with a contentious history. The plaintiff passed all the necessary inspections and was entitled to a certificate of occupancy for a garage extension. He was trying to sell his house but couldn’t with the certificate. The city repeatedly refused to issue it and the plaintiff was unable to close on a house because of this inaction. The federal court of appeals agreed with the plaintiff that he had been denied substantive due process and upheld the award of $22,000 in damages, $55,000 in punitive damages against the mayor and $27,975.00 in attorney’s fees. (Punitive damages would come out of the mayor’s pocket). This case serves as a cautionary tale for those who would use the building code as a weapon.

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