Home Demolished by Accident

Updated Jan. 7: Andre Hall came back from the holidays to continue repairing a 4-bedroom, 1-bath home he had acquired from a friend facing foreclosure in the West End area of Pittsburgh in November only to find that a city contractor had demolished the 1916-built house that had been vacant for five years.

"When I came back I saw a guy with a backhoe tearing the house down," Hall told AOL Real Estate.

City records show Hall had six months from the November acquisition date to make repairs on the once-condemned Sheraden neighborhood home that had previously sustained water damage, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Hall, 40, who works in home repairs, said he was about three weeks away from being able to
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move into the 1,613-square-foot home that had an assessed value of $31,000. He planned to live there with his girlfriend, her three children, and his three daughters when they would come visit in the summers from Kansas City, Kan. The couple currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment.

"I wasn't even able to do Christmas for my girls because everything I had I was putting into the house. This was my gift to them," he said.

"My dream is done now," he said. "Someone needs to man up and take responsibility for this."

P.J. Deller Excavating & Hauling was hired to tear down the home immediately next door, and although it did so, it is accused of also demolishing Hall's home.

"We have stopped any contracting from going to P.J. Deller until further notice," a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl told competing publication the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "They will not be doing any demolition for the city until our Law Department has appraised the matter."

home demolishedThe Bureau of Building Inspection wrote to and called Deller in early November, telling the firm that Hall's home was no longer scheduled for demolition, according to John Jennings, acting chief of Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection, who added that the city did not have record of Hall obtaining a building permit to do work on the house.

Still, that doesn't change that Hall's house, a pool table, furniture and even his tools inside are now gone. "One of the [demolition] workers even had my lumber in the back of his truck."

Hall said the workers said they were also to tear down the house next door, but they had started on his first. They had not gotten to the other home by time Hall arrived. If only they had done the other one first.

Hall's girlfriend, Shawna Jones, told AOL Real Estate that they have not heard from the city at all. "The city has not contacted us and the contractor is missing in action. No one has called us but the news media."

Hall, who said he was still finalizing homeowner's insurance for the home at the time of the demolition, said he has contacted a couple of attorneys, but all he wants is a house to live in. He went on a month-to-month lease ever since the previous owner of the home, Lorraine Nichols, began working with him to help him obtain the home. "Everytime I had a court date [about the foreclosure] Lorraine was with me. She gave me the home and didn't want me to pay her anything. She just wanted me to take care of the $15,000 in back taxes that were owed." He says there was no mortgage on the home and he would've owned it free and clear after the taxes were paid.

"I just need some help getting this resolved, that's all. I just hope it don't take three years because I was planning on being in there in three weeks."

In April, a 69-year-old Denton, Texas woman was also the victim of a wrongful demolition after a crew wrongly tore down most of her house, instead of one across the street, reported the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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