Home Buying in 60613>Question Details

Tppnz, Home Buyer in 60613

How hard is it to clear up code violations when a basement was illegally converted into a duplex down?

Asked by Tppnz, 60613 Sat Oct 22, 2011

We are considering purchasing a duplex down condo that has code violations for the basement being illegally converted into a living space. Does anyone know the process for making the basement a legal living space and also how hard it is to get the city off your back?

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dont do it i just got cited about my basement
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jul 9, 2016
Considering most (if not all) lenders will not let you close on this without the violations being cured (keep in mind I don't have a list of the violations so I can't be 100% sure), the question no one has asked is how are you going to close even if you do want the property? The seller most likely doesn't have the cash to fix it assuming it's not a bank REO and you can't cure the violations before you own the property nor will Chicago let you occupy it (correct me if I'm wrong Realtors, it's been a while since I talked to someone from zoning).

Luckily you can still close on this if you're ok with curing the violations yourself but you'll need a rehab loan to do so. Since this is a condo complex, it's very unlikely you can use a 203k (possible depending on the # of units in the physical building). A HomeStyle renovation loan can accomodate your situation Tppnz. It'll allow you to purchase and cure all the violations and your closing will not be held up by verification that the violations have been cured, only that the appropriate work has been bidded out to the proper parties and the money will be put in escrow for those contractors to cure post-close.

If you need more information on it, feel free to look at past advice I've given or reach me directly through my profile.

Best of luck to you!
Web Reference: http://Robweber.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 24, 2011
In my opinion, it is important to understand the comprehensive list of code violations and to consult with a licensed General Contractor, so you can make the most informed decision possible. With that comprehensive list and a General Contractor's estimate, you should be able to decide whether or not you want to bear the expense of resolving the violations and legalizing the property. At this point, since you know that duplexing the unit was an illegal conversion, consider whether or not you would want to purchase this property if the lower level were not available for you to use in the future.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 24, 2011
why are you doing this.. what ever you think this will cost add 100% to the number for stress, headaches, and therapy afterwards.. getting the city off your back is not for most people...just asking on this form suggests your in way way way way over your head.. be careful, hire a professional, and move on.
Web Reference: http://www.joeschiller.net
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 24, 2011
Since we are talking about a duplex down as opposed to a separate dwelling unit there are different and easier requirements. Typically if the City writes up a duplex down in a Condo it is because the conversion was done without proper Plans and Permits. However, there are other possible issues.
Considering the City tends to leave condos alone, one has to wonder how and why this unit got written up. If this is a vintage building then there may be serious issues that should make you run the other way. Those issues are a bit too many and complicated to discuss here. If this is a newer building, then chances are the original developer tried to cheat and got caught.
If construction conditions are relatively normal and code complaint, there should not be a reason for the City to demand de-conversion. Writing the space for de-conversion is automatic. However, it is NOT absolute that you must comply with the City's demands. You have to comply with the Code. Often times those are two entirely different things. The following is a list of things you would need to do to get this unit legalized.
- architectural plans and permits
- construction would need to meet Code, this may require construction work beyond what is existing in order to achieve compliance
- follow up inspections by City inspectors
- an attorney to handle the case in housing court or AH
- between plans, permits, misc construction work, time, an attorney and related costs; a case like this can typically run to $10K to resolve.
-if there are extreme circumstances obviously costs can be much higher
The City does not go away. If you buy this property the violations and liabilities become your responsibility. In Chicago, violations run with the building, NOT the owner. You could go after the previous owner for costs but that's another story.
I suggest you get a copy of the violation notice in order to see ALL the violations. DO NOT take anyone's word how long or short the violation list is. The violation list itself will have details about the specific violations that can shed light on the severity. Based on the information you have provided it should be feasible to legalize this unit. The question is whether the deal is still worthwhile considering the potential time and costs.
Feel free to call or email. Good luck
Web Reference: http://www.aic-chicago.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
Albert has the best answer yet you better make sure you know what they will do. Or allow for an out if they do something just not acceptable.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
First thing ask the seller to make it legal before you buy it. Second ask whatever town this condo is in just what is illegal about it? Third, where is your agent?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
How do basements become legal living spaces in Chicago? Many of our friends have a duplex down with the basement level having bedrooms.

The basement only has a bathroom and a bedroom and has two exits--- a window egress and a door the exits to the building's lobby.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
Some towns do not allow any living space in the basement. Check the zoning department.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
So you eliminate bathroom. Does that mean every other house with a bathroom in the basement must go. Two Ingress egress is only necessary if it is an apartment. Plumbing for sinks say to kitchen okay and could be considered a wet bar. So remove all wet bars from every house. Otherwise significant value and physical problems arise for the whole neighborhood.

About the only major item to deconvert is remove the stove and cap the gas line. You could call a plumber to make sure the line is capped appropriately. That is so minor I doubt a permit is needed. Gas company does all the time without any permits. You could then call the gas company and have them check for leaks.

You could then go to the city and get a zoning certification that your house is legal.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
usally,.you,must.have 2 -exits..fire-code...then..plumbing,.checked,.and in ,..ill,.must be done,.by a lic,.plumber...electrical,.can,.be done,.the same way...so,.probally,.its done--rite,.you just,.did not,.go in order,.everybody,..has,to stand ,in line,..with,.their-hand-out,..from,.permits,.to paying,.somebodys,.country-club,,.bar,.tab,,.its called,...politicts....chain,.of,.command....anywere-usa,..ita,.all,.the same......
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
I would recommend engaging a general contractor who is experienced in working with properties that have code violations. He'd walk you through the process and explain what he'd charge to help you. I recommend Dan Huschen at 773 593 6088
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
If the code violation is that the basement is not allwed to be living space then there is nothing you can do to make it legal living space. If that was possible tens of thousands of other basements would be converted to living space. What does the city say must be done? It probably says to 'deconvert' which means putting it back to a basement.....eliminate any bathroom/plumbing etc. You might still ba able to have the walls finished w/ electric and put carpet etc, but you need to check with the building department.
You cannot get the city to make an exception for your space. That will never happen. You just ned to do whatever it is that they allow.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
Not hard. Just take out the gas stove and cap the gas line.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
Often time you will need to apply for the permits for the work, you will need to make sure it meets code such as has proper exits/egress. The tougher thing to guess is if it was a single and turned into a 2 family then turned into a condo was it zoned for it, you may need a variance? The best thing to do is talk to someone at teh city and ask them straight up what you need to do to make this legal. If they are not helping you may need professional assistance like an attorney. good luck working things out
Web Reference: http://www.ScottSellsNH.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
I would think you need to contact the town or county zoning dept and ask this to a building or code inspector. I have seen them require the whole space cleared out and left unfinished or had to start all over with inspections.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 22, 2011
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