Project: 1920s Oakland Home

1920s Oakland Home
Repairs and Permitting Issues
Investigation and Reporting
Oakland, CA 

History: This structure was originally constructed in the 1920’s as a single family home in West Oakland. Over the years, the attic and basement were converted to living spaces, and the house had been occupied as a triplex. The house sat vacant for three years and was in disrepair.

In 2010 the home was purchased with the goal of fixing it up, renting two units, and living in one. The new owner qualified and obtained a federal HUD loan to rehabilitate the building and return it to a habitable condition. The brick foundation was failing, water from the exterior drainage was entering the basement area, and extensive repairs were needed to the structural framing.

After securing the loan, the owner hired a general contractor to begin the renovations. Dissatisfied with the contractor’s workmanship and concerned with the escalating costs, the owner withheld further payment to the contractor. The contractor responded by filing a lien on the property and stopping work on the project.

Scope: AAH was hired to evaluate the building’s condition and comment on the renovations. Numerous code violations were identified with the work performed by the contractor in addition to previous modifications to the building. AAH prepared a written report detailing the deficiencies and non-compliance with industry standards.

With the information in the report, the owner was able to establish a breach of contract by the contractor, as well as claims of non-disclosure against the seller, real estate agents, and the home inspector. They ultimately had to hire an attorney to file suit against the parties. The case settled, and the owner hired another contractor to finish the work.

AAH provided assistance in defining the parameter of the repairs to the building, obtaining legal representation, and bids to complete the renovations. AAH was retained to provide periodic observations of the work being performed.

Lesson Learned: The property owners purchased the property on the (mislead) belief the building could be renovated with limited funds, and that the units could be legally rented. They did not realize the extent of the structural compromises and deficiencies in the building, nor did they realize the difficulties of managing and supervising a project of this complexity.

It pays to talk with a construction consultant prior to making a real estate purchase particularly if the property is distressed, or if major renovations are anticipated.  Consultants can provide information about the property’s condition, assist with document review, preparing a scope of work, and obtaining bids from competent contractors.  They can also provide periodic reviews of the work being performed to ensure the work reflects acceptable standards.