Property Line Setbacks, Title Company Q&A

QUESTION

“A person buys a cabin in the foothills. It was sold “as is” and there was not much disclosure about the property. After living in the cabin for two years, It was discovered that the laundry room addition to the cabin was actually built on the neighbor’s property line. The neighbor is now thinking about suing me. Shouldn’t this property line issue have been disclosed by someone? Doesn’t the title company check some sort of maps to make sure that there no discrepancies with property lines?” – D.W., Oakland

 

ANSWER

Buying a piece of property in a probate sale, particularly in rural areas, can be quite a gamble if you are not prepared to do a lot of research. When a property is sold in probate, it is usually part of an estate of someone who has just died. There are no requirements for the estate to provide disclosure information to a prospective buyer. This basically relieves the estate of any liabilities that might arise after the sale if some problem were to be discovered. This is one of the few situations in which a house can actually be sold “as is,” leaving the buyer with very little protection from non disclosure.

The title company that you received your policy form, does give you some protection, but it is specifically related to the “Ownership” of the property. Having title insurance policy makes sure that your rights and interests to the property are clear, and that no governmental or individual entity has any right, lien, or claim to your property.

California has two commonly used title insurance policies, California Land Title Association (CLTA) which insures that all items on title are revealed to affected parties, and American Land Title Association (ALTA) which further insures that if an unrecorded claim of ownership arises it will be settled or affected parties will be reimbursed. ALTA policies are preferred by most lenders to insure a deed of trust.

Title companies spend a large percentage of their operating income each year collecting, storing, maintaining and analyzing official records for information that affects title to real property. Their technical experts are trained to identify the rights that others may have to your property such as recorded liens, legal actions, disputed interests, right of way or other encumbrances to your property.

Title companies do not normally check for permits, and they would not necessarily know of any property line violations if there were no recorded notices. The maps that they provide in the preliminary title report show the boundaries and size of the property, but do not show the location of any buildings or structures. This prevents anyone from knowing if there were property line violations. The responsibilities of a title company are clearly set forth in the specific coverage of each policy. To determine the coverage that you have, you must first check the existing policy to see if it even includes coverage of building violations or property line disputes.

If it does, you then want to carefully check to see what the exclusions are, and whether or not there is a deductible. It is possible that the title company is responsible for the result of not having a permit, but each case needs to be evaluated by all parties on its own merit and the conditions in the policy

However, without knowing all of the specifics of your policy, it is impossible to say if your title company had any responsibility. If the title policy contains the new expanded coverage that has recently been introduced by CLTA, there may be some protection for you as legal owner of the property.

Effective August 1998, CLTA began offering an “enhanced” title insurance policy which includes additional coverage that were normally only offered at an additional price. Some policies offered in California now provide coverage for such things as building permit violations, property line violations, restriction or covenant violations and coverage for post policy forgeries that may occur in the future and cloud the title.

All of these enhanced coverages do have some restrictions, limitations and deductibles, but they allow the title companies to provide a higher level of service and protection for the consumer. For more information about the CLTA Policy, you can contact your local title company.

The Value of a ASHI or CREIA Inspector Q&A

QUESTION

“What standards do home inspectors have when writing reports and disclosing information? We made a decision to buy a house because it looked pretty good, and the inspection report was minimal. However, after our offer was accepted, a second inspection report from a previous buyer surfaced, that noted serious defects with the house. There was leakage everywhere, from the roof, to the exterior walls, to water leaking into the garage, and to water pooling under the house. The siding wasn’t properly installed and there was extensive wood rot. Once I got the report, I went back to the property with my agent and rechecked the house, and it was amazing the damage this inspector found that I never would have noticed. I was going to buy a real money pit. How come the other report missed all of these significant items? Wouldn’t the other inspector be liable for not disclosing this?” –  C.H., Castro Valley

ANSWER

Home inspectors and their reports vary greatly in terms of thoroughness and the ability to clearly communicate their findings to a client. The reason for the variance is basically two-fold. First, there are no real standards or specific requirements that govern the experience of an inspector or the details that have to be in a report. The basic obligation of a home inspector in California is to perform the inspection according to nationally recognized standards for the industry. This requirement is so vague, that it offers very little assurance for the consumer that the inspection will provide the information it should.

The second reason for the variances between inspectors and their reports is directly related to the experience and skill of the inspector. Since there are no licensing requirements for home inspectors, anyone can hang a sign out and start in the business whether or not they have any construction experience. There are many people entering into the home inspection industry that believe that the home inspection industry is an easy opportunity to generate income. They think, how hard can it be to inspect a house?

Having 20 years of experience in the industry, I can attest that it requires skill and experience to thoroughly inspect a house, and provide the level of disclosure information expected in California. Having trained dozens of inspectors, I know that it takes about 500 inspections before an inspector can adequately perform an inspection with a consistent amount of skill. This is not a profession that you can learn and master on your own, or through a class.

Based on the information in your letter, I could only guess that the first inspector was unskilled and the second inspector experiences. Finding and disclosing the water issues you mentioned often require a keen sense and a thorough knowledge of how a house is constructed. Obviously, the first inspector did not have the skills or abilities to identify the items that the second inspector did.

You were very fortunate to have seen the second inspection, because if you had purchased the house based on the information listed in the first report, the inspector would have had tremendous liability. He or she would have been liable for any damages resulting from those non-disclosed items, assuming they were visible during the first inspection.

The best advice I can give anyone thinking of buying a house is to hire a qualified inspector to inspect it. And make sure you see a sample of the inspector’s report to see if it will give you the type of information you will want to rely on. There are literally hundreds of inspectors in the industry today, with dozens of report formats, and several national and regional inspector organizations. To find a good inspector, consumers do a little research and find someone they feel comfortable with, and one that is willing to stand behind the accuracy of their report.

The two most established home inspector organizations in the industry are the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the California Real Estate Inspectors Association (CREIA). Both of these organizations require that their inspectors have a performed a minimum number of inspections before becoming a member, and require continuing education to continue membership. The strengths of these two organizations are that they truly support the industry by promoting high standards of professionalism, and the continual education of their members.

For example, the local ASHI and CREIA chapters hold seminars and trainings almost every month, and there are many opportunities for inspectors to share experiences and learn from established members. Last month, the Silicon Valley ASHI and CREIA Chapter hosted one of the best seminars on moisture intrusion ever offered in the Bay Area. The inspectors attending that seminar learned more about how moisture infiltrates into building during that day, than they could after years working in the industry.

Remember, the most important thing when hiring an inspector is to feel comfortable with the person and their experience. You will be relying on their abilities and written report when you buy your next house. And you want that information to be accurate, and clearly communicated. To locate an ASHI inspector you can call ASHI headquarters at 1-800-743-2744, or you can contact ASHI through their web site at www.ashi.org To find a CREIA inspector, you can visit their website at www.CREIA.org.

Excessive Moisture in the House Q&A

QUESTION

“For the past few weeks, I’ve been having a problem with moisture inside the house. I’ve noticed lots of condensation on my windows and mold starting to grow on the window frames, and at the base of several walls. When I clean the mold up, it goes away for a while, but then comes back. I’ve even noticed mold on some of the indoor flowerpots. I don’t know where all of the moisture is coming from, and what I need to do to correct this. Any suggestions?” – L.J., Oakland

 

ANSWER

Excessive moisture in a house is never a good idea, and over prolonged periods can allow mold and mildew to grow. What you are experiencing is common, and tends to occur after winter rains. During the winter the air and exterior elements of a house are cold and damp. To stay warm, we tend to keep our homes sealed up by closing all of our windows and doors. This eliminates natural ventilation and traps moisture inside the house. Without ventilation or enough temperature, moist air cannot circulate, and the moisture cannot evaporate.

Moisture inside a house only occurs if it is generated by the occupants of the house, or from some external source such as a plumbing or roof leak. Believe it or not, normal living conditions can generate several gallons of water vapor a day. Every time we cook, shower, wash or dry clothes, or even breath inside a house, we are releasing water vapor into the air. Unless we provide some means for this vapor to escape, it will remain in the house and condense on window, wall, and ceiling surfaces.

Ventilation is really the key to controlling moisture in a home, and when combined with some heat, it can ensure that a home remains comfortable and dry. Without ventilation, wet or humid air is drawn to cooler surfaces such as walls, windows, ceilings, or personal belongings, where it condenses on the surface. If the moisture does not evaporate, it creates a cool moist environment for the mold spores in the air to grow.

The first thing you should do is to determine what the sources of moisture can be. The most common sources are from bathing and cooking. Does condensation form on your walls and ceilings after cooking a meal or bathing? If so, you need to increase the ventilation in the area by using an exhaust fan or opening a window. Do you have indoor plants or aquariums? These are also big generators of moisture indoors.

Occasionally, indoor moisture can be the result of standing water under the house, or excessive moisture in the attic. Often times during the winter a home can have some amount of standing water under it, or excessive moisture in the attic from a roof leak or from a lack of ventilation. Moisture from the sub area and attic can infiltrate into the interior of the building through vapor pressure and condense on wall surfaces and personal belongings. It is important to check these areas of the house to ensure that they are well ventilated and basically dry.

If standing water is noted in the sub area, it may be necessary to have it pumped out, or to have fans installed to accelerate its drying. If excessive moisture is noted in the attic, it may be necessary to install additional eave or roof vents.

Moisture and mold growth on the inside of the house usually forms on surfaces that are not exposed to any air flow or movement of heat such as behind dressers, beds, and in closets. Moisture is more apt to condense on exterior walls that are not insulated and in rooms that do not have their own heat register or source of heat. Many homes built in the 1940’s through the 1960’s only had a centrally located wall or floor furnace. These heating units could not efficiently get heat into most of the bedrooms and bathrooms like the forced air furnaces used today. Because of this, it was common for mold to appear.

Once the sources of the moisture are realized, then you have the ability to deal with correcting the mold conditions. Minor amounts of surface mold can be cleaned and removed with a mild solution of chlorine bleach and water. Start by mixing one part bleach and 7 parts water and spraying the solution on the mold. Let this set for a few minutes, and the color of the mold will begin to disappear. Then, wash the area with soap (cleaning detergent) and water and dry. This will remove any mold spores that remain on the surface.

Finally, keep in mind the importance of keeping the interior of the house well ventilated. In the morning open the blinds so that any condensation on the windows can evaporate, and open doors to bedrooms so that air can circulate. And remember to either open a window or use the exhaust fan after bathing or cooking. Following these simple suggestions will normally keep mold from occurring.

Water Under a House Q&A

QUESTION

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a strong musty smell in the living room and dining room. I looked all over for signs of moisture or leakage but did not find any. However, when I looked into the sub area the smell got worse, and I noticed standing water under my house. The water appeared about 2” to 3” deep, and covered most of area that I could see. I’m very concerned, and do not know where the water is coming from. Is it possible that this is from a plumbing leak? How do I find out, and what do I need to do?” – D.S., Dublin

 

ANSWER

A little standing water under a house is not uncommon especially after all of the rains we have been having lately. Once the soil around the house gets saturated with water, water will tend to seep under it and often go unnoticed. However, too much standing water can cause structural damage to the foundation, corrosion to furnace ductwork, wood rot to the framing members, and cause mold and mildew to grow. The amount of water necessary to cause this damage depends a lot on the type of soil under a house, the amount of underfloor ventilation, and the clearances between the earth and the components of the house.

Standing water under a house is usually the result of only two things; either a leaking water line, or from surface water drainage around the house. If it was from a leaking water line, the leak would have to be substantial, and you would hear running water in the house. It would take a few days of leaking to create the amount of water you described, and the leak would continue until the water to the house was shut off.

I suspect that the water under the house is actually the result of poor surface water drainage around your home. It is important for all homes, whether they are built with a raised foundation or on a slab, to be constructed so that the water from rain and irrigation drains away from the house. This is why most homes built within the past 20 years have all of their downspouts connected to a drainage pipe to carry the water to the curb and gutter, and why walks, patios, and planter areas slope away from the house. Builders understand the importance of keeping water away from the house’s foundation.

To determine if the amount of water under your house is serious, look into the sub area from the access opening with a flashlight. Usually, if there is enough height to the sub area, standing water is not necessarily a concern. If the water only covers a small portion of the sub area, and other areas are dry, it is not significant, and will probably drain away after a few days.

However, if the water covers a large area and is in contact with the base of any wood supports, or the furnace ductwork, then the water should be removed. The simplest way to remove water from a sub area is to use a sump pump to pump the water out. The pump must be installed at the deepest area of water to be efficient, and the water needs to be discharged away from the house.

If it turns out that there is a lot of water under the house, then consideration must be given to improving the drainage around the perimeter. A simple investigation can often determine where the water is coming from. Water can drain into a sub area from planter areas next to a house, or low points in the landscaping. Walk around the outside of your house and see if you can spot where the low points might be. If most of the water is under the rear of the house, there is probable a low point at the rear yard. Next, check to make sure that all downspouts drain away from the building by using either splash blocks, or corrugated piping to divert the water to a safe location.

Sometimes correcting the low points of drainage and adjusting the downspouts is not enough to prevent the water from infiltrating into the foundation, and other measures must be considered. The best solution for keeping water from getting into the sub area is to install a French drain on the sides of the house where the water appears to be coming in. A French drain is basically a 12” wide trench dug around a building down to the base of the foundation, and then filled with gravel and a perforated pipe sloped to collect and divert the water to the street.

Although, basic in design, French drains often require the expertise of a foundation or drainage contractor, or landscaper to install so that they operate properly. If the drain is installed too far away from the house, does not have the proper slope, or has not be installed with a filter fabric (to keep the soil from clogging the trench), a French drain will not work. Installing a French drain can cost thousands of dollars, therefore before you consider one, make sure that it is necessary.

My best advice for homeowners is to check your sub areas at least twice during the rainy season for signs of standing water. If standing water has been under the house in the past, it will leave a mud like (bathtub) ring around the inside face of the foundation, the interior pier supports, and any furnace ducting or pipes that have been in contact with the water. Find out if there are drainage issues before they cause a problem, because it is much easier to fix them when it is not pouring rain and the ground is real muddy.

The Importance of PreSale Inspections Q&A

QUESTION:

“I am thinking of selling my house and a Realtor friend of mine suggested that I have the house inspected before I put it on the market. I don’t think that’s really necessary because we have only been in the house for five years and we have not made any changes. Won’t the buyers pay for an inspection when they buy the house? Is there any real reason why I should do it?” – A.C., Fremont

ANSWER:

“Regardless of how long you have lived in your home, the best protection you can give yourself is to have your house inspected prior to listing the property. Pre-sale inspections not only tell you the current condition of your home, they also help you to comply with a seller’s disclosure requirements, and limit your exposure to future liability. In California, a seller is responsible for disclosing every “known” material fact that may affect the desirability of the house. This includes potential “red flags”, and conditions which may indicate a problem such as, noisy neighbors, poor drainage, an un-permitted addition, illegal wiring, or unstable soil.

The fact of the matter is that most sellers know very little about the house that they own, and are often unaware of hidden concerns. Think about this. When was the last time you looked in the attic, or under the house? Have there been modifications or additions to the house that were not done with permits or not to code? The answers to these will be the basis of the information that you must legally disclose to a buyer prior to your sale of the house.

In most real estate transactions, a seller does not provide disclosure information to the buyer until after the buyer signs a contract. Usually, within 3 days of signing a contract, the sellers provide this information to the buyer. Any information that is not disclosed or is discovered after receiving the disclosure statement, can potentially create a situation of vulnerability for the seller, and delays in the sale.

To get a Realtor’s perspective on the value of ordering pre-sale inspections, I spoke with Tony Bruno, of the Coldwell Banker office on Walnut Avenue in Fremont. Tony is a well respected, and experienced agent who encourages a pre-sale inspection on all of his listings. “A pre-sale inspection not only protects my sellers from liability exposure”, said Tony, “but it also simplifies the transaction by putting all the information we know about the property up front. This benefits the buyers because they can review this information prior to making an offer, and can then decide if they want to proceed.

“The current market is absolutely a seller’s market, and most homes are being sold ‘as-is’. This gives the illusion that the seller is protected and that a buyer cannot sue, but this is not true. Sellers still have liability for anything that is not disclosed to the buyer”, Tony cautioned. He commented that a seller should order at least a general house inspection and a termite inspection. However, prudent sellers may also get roof, chimney, and sometimes appliance inspections.

The general house inspection will include an inspection of the property site, drainage around the building, the building exterior, the roof, chimney and the utility disconnects. It will also include the interior of the house, the electrical wiring, plumbing lines, the furnace and the water heater, and finally, information about the structural framing in the attic and the garage and the presence of any health and safety concerns.

Once the seller has this information, they have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to fix or correct an item before they enter into a contract with a buyer. By disclosing this information up front to a buyer, a seller can prevent the buyer from trying to negotiate repairs on those items after they enter into the contract.

Tony stated, “I try to make the selling process as easy and painless a possible for both the buyers and sellers, and I have found that when all the facts are presented up front, each party can make intelligent and confident decisions about the transaction. In fact, local Realtors can now post this disclosure information on the Multiple Listing Service when they list the property. Buyers can view this before they even come to see a listing.”

If you are working with a Realtor, discuss the inspection reports with your agent before you make any decisions. Agents can often advise you whether or not it would be in your best interest to have certain items repaired. Correcting health and safety conditions, drainage or structural concerns is far more important than fixing something that poses little exposure to liability, or a minimal cost to fix. Your agent can also help you establish the terms of the sale based on what is being disclosed. If you would like to talk with Tony more about how sellers can benefit from the use of pre-sale inspections, he can be reached at 510-608-7626.

All About Homes has developed a three page check list called the “Seller’s Property Review”, that home owners can use to help evaluate the condition of their homes. If you would like to receive a copy of this checklist, visit our website or call our office.

Fence Restrictions Q&A

QUESTION:

“We just bought a house last year and the fence at the rear and sides of the property need to be replaced. The side fence is a common fence shared with our neighbor and the rear fence is next to a park. My neighbor wants to build an eight feet tall fence but I am concerned that this may be a problem if I continue it across the rear yard since all of the other fences that face the park are only six feet tall. Are there any code requirements for fencing? Also, I want to build a privacy fence in my front yard, is there a height limitation?” – M.C., Fremont

ANSWER:

There are several restrictions and requirements for fencing that deal with not only the height of the fence, but also where it is located on the property. The three governing factors for fencing are the Uniform Building Code, local municipal ordinances and neighborhood conditions, covenants and restrictions (CCR’s).

As far as the Uniform Building Code is concerned, The maximum height that you can build a fence without a permit is six feet. Any fence more than six feet in height, measured from the ground up, would require a permit.

The reason for this is that a fence is basically a “wall” with minimal supports, which can be subject to wind loads and soil stability. Most people do not realize the force that wind can have on a fence, particularly if it is more than six feet tall. It is common for wind to blow down fences during severe storms.

Fences that are not properly supported also can fall or fail when the soil is saturated with water, such as during periods of heavy rain. Therefore it is important that fences are properly constructed to withstand these external forces.

Local ordinances and neighborhood CCR’s, however, are more restrictive and more specific. In addition to the maximum eight-foot limitation, there is also a four foot and 30-inch limitation on fences, depending upon where the fence is located on the property. Usually rear and side yard fences can be built up to the six or eight-foot height unless there are more specific neighborhood restrictions. It is when the fence projects beyond the front of the house and into the front yard of the property that the lower height restrictions kick in.

All homes have a front yard. The property line setback is typically measured from six inches back from the sidewalk to the front of the house or garage (whichever is closer to the sidewalk). Any fencing in this area is usually limited to a maximum height of four feet. If the house is located on a corner, there is a further restriction on sections of the fencing paralleling the corner that can be no higher than 30 inches.

The reason for this is pedestrian and vehicular safety. Building six or eight foot fences right up to the sidewalk would prevent one from seeing cars backing out of driveways, or children riding on bicycles or playing in a way that might affect cars on the street.

The proper way to construct a fence is to determine the size of the posts necessary. A six-foot fence normally requires 4X4 posts, and an eight foot tall fence normally requires 6X6 posts. I should point out that fences more than six feet in height may require some basic engineering since the building code is silent on their construction. Therefore before any construction is started, it is important that you consult with your local building department.

First, use a string line to lay out the posts, and dig the holes approximately eight feet apart. Most municipalities require that the posts be pressure treated wood. The diameter of the post hole should be twice the diameter of the post and at least 24 to 30 inches deep. Before the post is set, four to six inches of gravel should be placed at the bottom of each hole to allow for drainage underneath the post.

Once the post is set and checked for plumb in both directions, the hole is ready for concrete. The hole should be filled so that the concrete extends one inch above the soil. When pouring the concrete, it should be tamped or vibrated around the post to ensure a strong mixture. The concrete should then be sloped or tapered off away from the post to allow water to drain away. This is necessary if you do not want the base of the posts to rot away. When the concrete is poured below the top of the soil, water usually sits and pools at the base of the posts causing them to rot.

The next step is to install the kicker board between the posts and set the bottom and top rails before nailing up the fence boards. Remember to use galvanized nails as they are able to resist rusting.

If you have any questions or concerns about the height limitations for the fencing around your property, or the actual placement of the fencing in relationship the house or property line setbacks, you can call the City of Fremont’s Planning Division at 510-494-4455.

Sidewalk Repair, Who is Responsible?

QUESTIONS

We just moved into a new housing development and we are having problems with the contractor fixing some large cracks in the driveway and sidewalk. The cracks were caused by trucks and heavy equipment crossing our lot to finish up work on the house next door. The builder keeps saying that the city will fix the sidewalk when the development is done at the end of the year. I called the city and they say that it is the builder’s responsibility. Who is responsible for repairing our driveway ?

“I live in an older neighborhood, and for years the tree the city planted in the sidewalk area has been causing the sidewalk to crack and lift. It has gotten so bad, that last week one of the neighbors tripped on the sidewalk and injured their hip. I called the city and they said that the maintenance and repair of the sidewalk is the responsibility of the home owner. They stated that I needed to get a permit if I take out a section of the sidewalk. Isn’t the city was responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks?”

ANSWER

In order to understand who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the sidewalk, it helps to know that most people’s property line stops somewhere on the house’s side of the sidewalk. In some municipalities, the property line goes right up to the sidewalk, in others it can stop a few inches or feet before the sidewalk begins. This raises the question, “If a home owner’s property line stops short of the sidewalk, is the property owner responsible for its maintenance and repair?”

The answer is yes. Although a home owner does not actually “own” the sidewalk in front of their property, they are still held responsible for maintaining the condition of the sidewalk and the public right of way. The reason is, the public right of way is not only for the convenience of others, it also benefits the home owner by allowing safe access to their own home.

Whether this right of way may ends at the inside edge of a sidewalk, is not always clear. In some developments the right of way may end two feet beyond the inside edge of the sidewalk. This portion of the right of way could be used for the installation of underground utilities such as electrical, telephone and cable. A home owner would not be able to build or erect any permanent structure, planter, or fence that may affect passage in this area.

For many years, California has required a 40 foot right of way for city streets and sidewalks. This is the minimum width of a residential street and sidewalks to ensure that vehicular and pedestrian traffic have a safe and un-encumbered space to travel on.

To enforce these requirements, the local government has the authority to control how streets and sidewalks are installed, and how they are to be maintained.

For example, before a new sub division can be built, the builder must submit plans outlining how all of the streets and sidewalks will be installed. These plans must meet the strict guidelines of the local public works department, or city engineer.

Once approved, the builder is then responsible for installing the streets and sidewalks for the development.

Usually a year after the development is completed, the municipality will inspect the streets and sidewalks. If they find the streets and sidewalks in acceptable condition, they will assume the control for their continued use and maintenance. If sidewalks are badly cracked or damaged, the local government will not accept control until corrections are made. Builders are therefore ultimately responsible to ensure that the sidewalks, driveways and streets are in serviceable condition.

In existing neighborhoods, the city also maintains control of the streets and sidewalks, and how they are repaired. If the city receives a complaint that a sidewalk is cracking and lifting so as to create a tripping hazard, they will notify the home owner and request that they fix the condition. For a crack to be considered a tripping hazard, it would have to have a gap of about one half inch, or a lift of three quarters of an inch. If the owner does not fix the condition, the city can hire a sub contractor to make the repair, and bill the home owner.

Many times in older neighborhoods, where the trees in the parking strips have caused damage to several blocks of sidewalks, the city will contract with a sub contractor to repair the entire area. When this is done, the billing for the home owner often appears as a fee on the property taxes.

Repairing a sidewalk does not always require that the sidewalk be replaced. If there is only one or two large cracks or lifts in the sidewalk, they can usually be repaired by the home owner with patching concrete, or mortar. Cracks more than one half inch should be filled with mortar and leveled off. Raises or lifting of the sidewalk more than one half inch high should be bridged with the patching compound to create a smooth sloping surface.

Cracks or lifts larger than these may require that a section of the sidewalk actually be replaced. This will require a permit to ensure that the work will meet the local guidelines. Before attempting to perform any major repairs to a sidewalk or driveway, the public works department or city engineer should be consulted. They can answer any questions that you might have and will usually provide handouts and drawings outlining their requirements. They will also be able to tell you if there are any special programs through the city that may share in the costs of repairing or replacing damaged sidewalks.