Monday, May 12, 2014

You Have To Have Thick Skin And Be Prepared For Traps To Work With Roanoke City

See the letter below sent to me. It’s an example of what I continually hear from real estate investors in Roanoke City. Rather than helping guide the guy through the state process of rehabilitating a building they use the Virginia Statewide Uniform Building Code against him to make him feel helpless. It also appears that they are misinforming him of his rights.

This is the way Roanoke City currently operates and those who are in power should immediately put an end to it. People should not be treated in this manor. The city should roll the red carpet out for investment money and make the process easy to deal with. And inspectors should be required to take customer service education classes that teach them how to treat people with respect to make it a positive experience when working with the city rather than a nightmare.

This gentleman DOES NOT need an architectural engineer as they suggested to rehab the building himself. He is not making any major structural changes that would require that. He has NOT moved around any walls or done any major structural work other than ADDING one little wall. He is also NOT required to be held to 2014 code but rather the code of the date it was originally built.

Verification of that here:

I have read the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and it’s references to a Certificate of Occupancy. And It appears that you do not need a new CO if the property is being used for the same purpose as it always has been. If the prior CO has been revoked than they shall issue you another CO once the property has been brought back to code of the date it was originally built. This unnecessary harassment should stop. Driving investors out of the city to invest in the surrounding areas is not advisable and does nothing more than hurt and further depress our blighted neighborhoods. 

Roanoke Cities new policy should read, “If You Have A Hammer And Are Swinging It We’ll Do Everything We Can To Help You.”

Hi Mr. Powell,

My name is NAME REMOVED;  I recently found REI of VA online, which is where I found your e-mail address.  I hope my writing you isn't too inappropriate or bothersome. I need help, perhaps an attorney with an understanding of building codes as they apply to me, and I am hoping you can point me in the right direction.  I purchased my first would be income property 5 years ago in Roanoke City and have been renovating it in hopes of renting four apartments and two retail spaces in the building.  I am admittedly a complete novice at all of this, but I was trying to take a building that was empty, and an eyesore, and make it a decent, functional, and more appealing addition to it's surroundings.  It is a slow process for me because I am just an average individual, funding it out of my pocket a little at a time. The apartments and retail spaces had been rented in the past, before I came along, and the building was built in 1935.  I truly thought that "the powers that be" in the city would be happy with my efforts.  I have had a bit of an awakening since then.  I am having a problem getting a C.O., which they tell me I need, and they are telling me that they will not even talk to me about signing off on electrical work that I have had done, or anything else until I hire an architectural engineer to go top to bottom - front to back and give them among other things fire ratings for every floor, ceiling, wall, and stair.  Even if I can scrape together the funds to hire the engineer,  I am extremely concerned that they are holding this building to 2014 new construction codes.  I of course want it to be safe, but with things like the difference in thickness of drywall boards thru the years, I feel like I will be chasing my tail into bankruptcy. I have read several things on REI that seem to suggest I'm not alone in this. I really didn't think the City would be out to get me but that sure is the way it feels at the moment. Perhaps I can make it to Shaker's at some point, the group of people sounds amazing.

Thank you,


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