Fire guts your home, making it a dangerous eyesore. Does the city have the right to bulldoze it without your knowledge?
Jack Kline doesn’t think so.
The Spokane plumber has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming one of his rental homes was demolished in 1993, and he was never personally notified of the threat.
City officials say they are not required to go that far.
“It’s a frivolous claim,” said Terry Clegg, assistant director of the Code Enforcement Department.
Kline is seeking $35,000 in damages in his suit, filed this week in Spokane County Superior Court.
The claim stems from an early morning arson fire on Feb. 10, 1993, that charred Kline’s vacant rental home at 1409 W. Spofford. While the house was severely damaged, the detached garage was unscathed, according to the lawsuit.
After the fire, Kline said he boarded up the house and began working with his insurance company with an eye on rebuilding.
He claims he didn’t realize the city was moving toward demolition.
Four months later, in June 1993, neighbors began complaining about the dangerous nuisance. There were concerns that children were sneaking into the home, which showed signs of collapsing.
The Code Enforcement Department investigated and determined the building should be demolished.
From that point on, notices of city proceedings were sent to the Spofford address and returned as undeliverable.
City officials didn’t check the telephone book, which lists Kline’s home telephone number and South Freya address, the lawsuit states.
Clegg, however, said the city posted a notice on the Spofford property in July that Kline should have seen.
Kline is well aware of the city’s nuisance-abatement process and has gone through it with other rental properties, Clegg said.
Attempts to reach Kline on Friday were not successful.
In October 1993, the city hired a demolition company to bulldoze both the home and the garage.
Kline’s attorney, Richard Perednia, claims the city violated its notification rules by failing to track down the property owner and publish legal notices in the newspaper.
But Clegg said the responsibility was on Kline’s shoulders, not the city’s.
“He has an obligation as a landowner to clean up the mess he made. It was his responsibility to get a hold of us,” Clegg said.
“It was a dangerous situation. He let it sit there for months and months and months. Neighbors were complaining for a long time and finally we got it.”
The city is potentially liable if it drags its feet on demolition of a dangerous, vacant building and someone is injured or killed, the city official said.
He disputed Kline’s claim that the garage wasn’t damaged by the fire.