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Could This Happen to You or Your Loved One? Town Demolishes House While Owner Is in Hospital

Ali Katz


Imagine this: your elderly uncle with no family near his home travels South to Florida for surgery and has to stay there unexpectedly for a number of months. While he is away, his home is demolished by the city, including all of his possessions.

This just happened to a 69 year-old veteran and home owner in West Hemstead, New York. Due to medical complications with his surgery, he was unexpectedly gone for a number of months.

When he returned home, he found that his home had been torn down by the city. He had lived in the house since infancy and all of his possessions had become part of the rubble. Neighbors had complained about the condition of the house and claimed they thought that no one lived there.

Owners of homes or other structures that have become dilapidated need to be aware of laws that permit municipalities to take action against them. Typically, towns and cities have building codes and standards which must be met, and they have inspectors with the authority to declare properties unfit for use.

These cases start when the city declares an abandoned house or building structurally unsound and orders that it be demolished. The city will first look to the property owner to carry out the demolition, but if that does not happen, the city undertakes the task itself and then demands payment of demolition costs from the owner.

While avoiding the destruction of someone’s home should be a goal of government officials charged with enforcement of building codes or urban renewal programs, that is obviously not always the case. It is up to each of us to care for our family members, especially those who are elderly and do not have close family nearby. One of the best ways you can do that is to ensure all of your senior family members have a relationship with a trusted advisor, such as a personal lawyer, to ensure that all of their assets are protected in the event of a long-term  incapacity or illness.

We often become surrogate “members of the family” for our clients who do not have loved ones nearby. Please contact a Personal Family Lawyer®if we can support your family in this way and save you and your loved one’s the heartache of losing a home or other assets in this way.