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Fees, Fees, and more Fees. The Pains of Owning a Fixer Upper

Fees, Fees, and more Fees. The Pains of Owning a Fixer Upper

Warning: Rant Ahead…

When we closed on the Dreamhouse it was like Christmas morning but instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head I was dreaming of subway tile, shiplap, farmhouse sinks, and sliding barn doors. (essentially just the next home to be featured on Fixer Upper).  Things were all unicorns and daisies until the city got involved…

Since the property we bought was vacant with code violations it is considered “Occupancy Prohibited” as the title pretty much spells out it is illegal to live in. (not that we would at this point, gross.) However, it doesn’t stop there due to it’s “occupancy prohibited” status we are stuck giving the city a LOT of money.

Fee #1 – Electrician 

Okay, so technically this money didn’t go into the cities pocket but due to their policies and the fact that they gave me a huge headache trying to figure out how to get the electricity turned on I am going to lump it in with the rest of the fees and fines.

Once we took possession of the house our first item of business was to get the utilities on because running water and electricity is always a good thing when you are trying to do extensive work in a house. Well since our house was “occupancy prohibited” when I contacted the electric company about the utilities they forwarded me to Springfield’s building and zoning department, who advised me that I would need a “Springfield certified electrician” to come inspect the wiring to make sure that is was safe to turn on the electricity for “repairs only”. That seemed fair, so I asked just to clarify I just need an electrician to come sign off on the house. She said yes but to make sure they are “Springfield certified”. I asked if she could give me a recommendation or a list of local electricians that are specially certified with the city. She informed me that was impossible and that I would have to just “call around” and ask if they were certified (uh, what!?) . To say I was annoyed at this point is an understatement, it is one thing to not give me the name of a specific electrician but to not even have a list, just ugh.

In the end I ended up finding an electrician, met him at the house at 8 AM on a Saturday morning, he walked down the breaker box in the basement looked at it for all of 5 minutes walked back upstairs and I wrote him a check for $100. (eye roll).

Fee #2 – Building Permits

Before I start this section, I can hear you all now. “Keshia, come one. You are renovating a house building permits are expected.” Yes, I know but they are a fee I have to pay to the city and required so they are included in my gripe session.

The day we closed, we went down to the the Municipal Building to get our building permit. At this point the electrician had already inspected our breaker and okay-ed us to get our electric turned on, the house was in officially in our name, the only thing standing between us and running water was our permit.

At the time of getting out permit we hadn’t done much demo in our house and weren’t 100% sure on work needed for the plumbing and electrical so we didn’t get permits for those. But we did get our building permit. In case you don’t know the price of your building permit is based on the price of your renovation costs. Since we knew this ahead of time we gave them the low end of our budget and ended up paying $55 for the permit.

Now that we know the state of the electric and plumbing we are going in two weeks to get the permits so we can start working on them. We have been told to expect to pay an additional $100 for those two permits.

Fee #3 – Registration Fees

Okay, this post is getting long but if you have made it this far stick with me because this is the big one! At our interview with the board we were warned that since the property is vacant with code violations it has to be “registered” with the city and there is a fine that has to be paid every 3 months that it stays vacant of $300. So this is a fee that we expected, however we did not expect to have to pay it within 10 days of closing…

We closed on a Thursday and on the following Monday we got a letter from the city informing us that our property was required to be registered with the city. I filled out the registration form and sent it back. The paperwork stated that if the property was not registered within 10 days of notice that we could be fined up to $500 a DAY that it wasn’t registered.

After filling out and faxing the paperwork to the planning and zoning department I received an email from the head of the department letting me know that she had received my registration and that she was holding it until she received the $300 registration fee that would register us until 6/3/17. (WAIT WHAT?!)

I understand the logic behind the registration fee, I really do. It is to encourage homeowners to not let their properties become blights in the neighborhood but when I purchase one that is blighted with the intentions to restore it I get fined immediately?!  In my opinion this would not have been an issue if in June they would have contacted us for the fine because we had 3 months to correct the code violations to the house and they weren’t yet but to penalize us immediately really irks me.

Since we are not getting a construction loan and just cash flowing the house I know we will not have our occupancy permit by June so I am just going to preemptively include those fees into our total fines of $600. We do hope to be in the house before the next fines come due in September!

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