Archive

Archive for February, 2010

Most Creative Illegal Conversion

February 23rd, 2010 5 comments

This is by far the most creative conversion of a structure into a residence I’ve ever seen.  It’s a pool!  Can anyone top this?

It's a pool, no it's an apartment
It’s a pool, no it’s an apartment
The living space
Stairs in the kitchen
The living space
Stairs in the kitchen


Categories: Building Codes, Code Enforcement Tags:

Up on a Roof

February 23rd, 2010 5 comments

Calling all inspectors.  Help me help a prosecutor decide what violations this picture contains

Up on a Roof

Up on a Roof

.  The person is storing tires on a roof and says they’re planters.  Illegal outdoor storage may be one violation but I’m looking for something creative

Categories: property maintenance Tags:

Frustration in Dealing with Foreclosed Properties

February 11th, 2010 6 comments

I’m recently back from the Region III conference in Brooklyn Park, MN put on by AMBO.  This year I stayed an extra night courtesy of Mother Nature (my Southwest flight was cancelled due to the snow storm in Chicago) but it gave me a chance to visit with a great group of people.  One of the things that really impressed me is the difference between laws in a state like Minnesota versus those in my home state, Illinois.  Inspectors in Minnesota have more tools at their disposal in dealing with the foreclosure crisis because of their ability to clean a property up and collect the costs on the property’s tax bill.  In theory, Illinois inspectors can do the same thing but the way the 2005 law is written makes it so convoluted that I don’t know anyone who has been successful in collecting any money this way.  Putting a lien on property isn’t sufficient.  Years may pass before the property sells or the lien may be wiped out by foreclosure proceedings depending on local law.  What is the difference between states?  I believe Illinois is in the grip of special interests that defeat bills that would make it easier to get property cleaned up and help local jurisdictions recoup their costs.  Being able to collect municipal expenses on next year’s tax bill for a problem property with a process that is simple and direct is a terrific tool that I wish I could use in my practice. It would eliminate the helplessness inspectors experience during the gap period, from the time the homeowner walks away from a property and the time the lender takes title.   I envy my Minnesota colleagues.

Which Code Should I Use?

February 5th, 2010 No comments

I recently did an all day training for the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association and I found myself talking about using multiple codes for violations.  Fire inspectors often work with both the IFC and the Life Safety Code and have to decide which one to use.  I find that the IFC has superior administrative provisions and gravitate towards it for enforcement.  The Life Safety Code is a great code to follow when something is being constructed.  Beyond that, I sometimes find that using the IPMC is helpful when dealing with a problem property because it has very specific sections on the condemnation of unsafe buildings, structures and equipment.  In some jurisdictions, the building department writes the violations for the fire department or fire district.  In those cases, I’ve often seen the inspectors use Chapter 7 of the IPMC for fire code violations since it’s fairly comprehensive for common fire safety violations.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter which code you use as long as it’s appropriate to the situation and it meets the local requirements of your jurisdiction and state.  Being flexible is important because you may find that you hit a dead end using one code but the solution lies in another.  When I wrote the guide books for the IBC, IFC and IRC, I included a chapter on using the IPMC when unsafe structures were involved.  The IBC and IFC have some guidance for unsafe buildings but not to the point of condemnation. The IRC has nothing about unsafe structures.  Now that there are many half-built single family structures standing around, this becomes a problem since the IBC doesn’t apply to them.  I usually recommend using the IPMC (if you have adopted it) if the permit has expired.  If you don’t hve the IPMC, you better have a decent public nuisance ordinance.  Otherwise, the only alternative is a demolition lawsuit which in most jurisdictions can be a costly procedure.

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