THINK YOU KNOW ALL THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT REAL ESTATE?...Think Again!
I hope you have your wits about you at this reading, because the details of this story may be a little "mind bending" for you. I really would like you to take a few minutes and read it though because I need your professional take on what you think about this situation I find myself in. If you have any input of value for me, PLEASE leave it in a comment below.
In all my 18 years of Real Estate experiences, I have never witnessed nor have I been a party to a situation like this one:
- I am in contract to sell my home here in Southampton Village; the buyer is a builder and wanted to break ground before the snow flies. I wanted to close before the January 1, 2013 because of the new capital gains taxes that are going to affect me after the first of the year.
- We had a scheduled closing to take place in New York City on December 12, 2012. The day before, on December 11, 2012...The buyers attorney gave my lawyer a copy of a "notice of Non-conformance" from the Suffolk County Department of Health, Waste Water Management saying that my lot was not properly subdivided by the owner in 1982. The original property was a narrow and deep .65 acre lot that the owner apparently decided to subdivide. There is a "landlocked" lot between my property and the other lot with the owners residence on it. The landlocked lot is a non-build-able, 5,500 SF lot with the original owner's .29 of an acre lot opening to a short cul de sac street, and .31 of an acre belonging to me, with frontage on another Village street.
- Because the owner did not report the subdivision to the Board of Health at that time, there was no evidence of a subdivision in the Waste Water Management Department and therefore, they view my lot as "non-conforming". 1981 was when they began to require all lot subdivisions to be reported and approved by the Board of Health. I was told I have been "Living on an illegal lot" when I went to the Deoartment of Health in Yaphank to see what the issue is. This is an on-going problem in Suffolk County because of the lax reporting on the part of most smaller communities here in this County--and most people did not know this had to be reported!
- I bought the house in 1997 and used a local attorney here in the Village to assist me in the transaction. She works as a partner in a well established firm here. I called her immediately and was met with: "I can't help you with that, Paula--you need to to talk to so-and-so to get that fixed". I was outraged and told her as much but then thought better of continuing the conversation and hung up. I called my lawyer for this deal and he was stumped as to why she would not help me out. By her not doing her due diligence at the time, he tells me he thinks that if she helped me out that would be an admission of "guilt" and her responsibility would be established. She should have known about this lot line problem.
- How did I get Title Insurance??? How did the bank (banks, because I did re-fi over the years!) allow this property to be financed???
When we canceled the closing and before I got an idea of the enormity of the problem, I began the research to clear up the issue so that I could complete the closing and my buyer could go ahead with his plans to tear down the house and begin construction.
NOT SO FAST! What I found out when I delved DEEPLY into the situation hit me like a ton of bricks!
- It does not matter to the Board of Health who did the change of lot line in 1982, all they want is to get it officially subdivided and approved by the Department of health for the purpose of making sure there is adequate room for buildings and cesspools on both my lot and the lot of the original owner, including the lot beween.
- The owner is no where to be found--this is a second (or more) house for him and he uses it so infrequently that I have not seen him for two years. I left message after message on his home phone here and at his office in New Jersey....No reply. He also has since 1982, built a pool house and a pool on the smaller lot, which in reality makes the two lots he owns now merged into one---you can't have a single and separate lot if you have accessory buildings on one lot and a primary residence on the other; that will automatically merge both lots.
- The problem is, he never got building permits for his pool or his pool house, so there is no Certificate of Occupancy for either one....another factor that will drag out my situation for 3-6 months or longer before I can close on the house!!!
- I did get the surveyor who did the new survey for my buyer to do a "lot line" modification which showed the Board of Health that since my lot is contiguous by virtue of only one of the two lot lines of the landlocked lot, that it should not present a problem for me but for the original owner only. They did not accept that as reason enough to dismiss the "non-conformance" and in fact pointed out to me that the cesspool that was there since the house was built in 1926, is in the wrong Place and is not far enough away from the pool---a pool that was already there when I bought the property!!
- I sent the other owner a certified letter today, scheduled to reach his office on the 2nd of January, telling him that he needs to address this "Urgent matter" with me immediately!
- Oh, and the buyer did not get my permission to go for Department of health approval to build before we closed...maybe just a minor factor in the story, but ironic to say the very least!
IF YOU HAVE MADE IT TO THIS POINT IN THE STORY, I only have one more request: If you have any knowledge or any experience with dealing with the Board of Health, please comment here?
**ALL INFORMATION AND CONTENT IN THIS BLOG IS ORIGINAL TO PAULA I. HATHAWAY. The views expressed herein are my personal views and do not reflect the views of Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Paula I. Hathaway, Senior Broker Associate, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Southamtpon Village Real Estate Specialist since 1995; Also Specializes in North Sea, Noyac, Water Mill and Bridgehampton, New York
Diamond , Gold and Chairman's Circle Awards; Top Producer since 2005
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