Perhaps there is less tension over teardowns now than there used to be; I was never in the unfortunate sandwich between two teardowns, so I couldn’t judge the process before and after the moratorium. But I have lived next to a teardown since 2014, and the message is still “neighbor beware,” as the city’s, the inspector’s and certainly the builder’s interests have little in common with those of the homeowner next door.
Here is a heads-up in case that unlucky homeowner is you:
- Take dated photos of your property outside (and inside) before the construction commences.
- The hours of construction can be a regular annoyance. Construction is noisy! The city grants extended work hours permits for a fee. Be aware that a condition of this permit is permission from the neighbors. If you did not give your permission, they do not have the permit.
- The builder is required to provide drawings to receive a permit from the city. These are public documents. Ask to see them. Make sure your property line is indicated. If you do not want construction equipment or workers on your property, be aware you must enforce it yourself. Don’t expect anything from 311 if you come home to ruts in your yard or mud on your stucco or worse.
- The soils in our neighborhood are typically poor. Be aware that pilings, the use of heavy equipment or retaining structures will cause vibrations. These are threatening to your older home’s stucco, plaster and foundations.
- The building permit states that any damage done by the construction has to be repaired to its original condition. Be aware that even though the city has approved these drawings and issued the permit for a fee, it does not take any responsibility for poor work or damage to neighboring property that may result. Satisfaction of a complaint you may have is subject to the good will of the builder. If the builder denies the obvious, you will need your “before” pictures and probably an attorney. As I was told by the city in my own inquiries: “That would be a civil matter.”
I now live next to a million-dollar home that has raised the tax base on mine. The city and the builder have profited nicely and are congratulating each other on the lessening of tensions over teardowns.