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Building and Standards Commission eases sanction for code violations

Monday, March 31, 2014 by Kara Nuzback

An Austin homeowner facing a glut of building code violations says his house was not inspected before he bought it in 2005, during the national housing bubble.

 

Austin’s Building and Standards Commission voted unanimously last week to give homeowner Ricardo Ordonez an extra 60 days to sell his house, which he says, he has no money to fix. Testifying before the commission, Ordonez said when he bought the home less than 10 years ago, at a time when mortgage loans were more easily obtained, the realtor who sold him the house said he did not need a home inspection, and the mortgage company never asked for proof of inspection before giving him a home loan.

 

“It was 2005,” said Commissioner Stacy Kaplowitz with a shrug.

 

Ordonez said he discovered later the property, located at 300 E. Wonsley Dr., was not code compliant. He said he now has a $119,000 mortgage on the home, and it needs between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of repairs to comply with city regulations.

 

City Building Inspector Edmond Su said the house was deteriorating. He showed the commission pictures of the home’s leaky ceiling, uncovered gas pipes and electrical wires, and an exposed sewer tap.

 

City Building and Standards Coordinator Chris Moore recommended the commission issue an order forcing Ordonez to repair the property within 30 days or face $1,000 per week in fines until the house is brought up to code standards.

 

Ordonez said he could not afford the repairs or the fine. “I don’t have any money for this property,” he said.

 

Ordonez said he had been renting the home and did not know about its poor condition until he received a letter from Su. He said he forced his tenants out of the home, and he plans to clean the property so he can sell it.

 

“It’s going to be hard to sell,” he said.

 

Commissioner Daniel Gonzalez made a motion to order the property remain vacant and secure, and asked city staff to bring the case back to the commission in 60 days. If Ordonez has not sold the property, Gonzalez said, the commission could then decide whether to impose a repair order.

 

Commission Vice Chairman David Brown said the realtor who sold Ordonez the property should be questioned and reported.

 

Earlier in the meeting, the commission voted unanimously to waive $14,750 in fines for a home at 901 Armadillo Road that Inspector Lauren Taggart said had three unpermitted accessory structures attached to it.

 

A neighbor, Dan Vogler, testified the owner and only tenant of the property, Philip Savoy, died in January 2013 after he fell from an upper-story deck — one of the unpermitted structures.

 

Vogler said it was an example of why code compliance is important.

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