Home buyers may pay for sellers' errors Bill would hold new owners liable

November 15, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Imagine you've just been through settlement and bought your dream home, complete with a shed out back for your gardening tools.

There's one hitch: The previous owner had no shed permit, and you're stuck with the permit fees.

"A lot of people, in genuine ignorance, don't think permits are needed," said Arden Holdredge, chief of current planning for Harford County.

Residents also may need a zoning variance if they want to build on a utility easement, for example.

"Permits are needed for sheds, decks, fences and pools, and we have several hundred such cases each year," Ms. Holdredge said.

Violations are found during the Department of Planning and Zoning's annual neighborhood canvas -- a check to see that structures have appropriate permits.

Now, the department wants the County Council to approve a bill spelling out that buyers are responsible for permit fees and variances.

But at a public hearing last Tuesday, County Council members questioned the practice of holding property owners responsible for the actions of their predecessors.

"You're asking us on the basis of precedent, to make a new kind of law," said Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson.

Ken Heselton, husband of Republican Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton of District A, was the only citizen to testify against the bill.

He said county inspectors should make sure structures have proper permits before they are sold.

"It's no different than trying to arrest someone for manslaughter because the car they bought yesterday was in a hit-and-run accident two weeks ago," Mr. Heselton said.

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