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Construction Law/Inspectors Preventing Owner Doing Work


Dear Gerry,

In Missouri, can a city inspector really prevent someone who owns a home, Condemned or not, from working on that home?

I'm financing a fixer-upper to a fellow, the city inspector neglected to send me notice that it was condemned before I signed a Contract-For-Deed to this guy for cheap!

Now the buyer's upset that the inspector has all the sudden told us the home's condemned cause he peeked in a window and didn't like the floor bowing. The inspector didn't send out notice until I called him to ask about it. He admitted it hadn't been sent (over a month after condemned). There was no sign on the property indicating condemned, although he claimed there had been one placed. First of all, can/should we sue the city or inspector for ruining my deal? Negligence?

Recently, the Inspector drove by while buyer was working on home, asked if buyer had a permit (No) and insisted that he be allowed to do a FULL inspection (so he can ding my buyer for everything in the book). Buyer said it's not ready for inspection yet, inspector said he can't do any more work on home w/out said permit, which only this inspector can authorize, contingent upon being allowed to inspect this property.

This particular city council is ridiculous to you unless you are part of the "Good 'Ol Boys" club, meaning you are buddies with the council.

Can the inspector really do anything, is this legal to enforce? PS What are they going to do if he doesn't stop working on the home, cut his hands off?


Gerry Sverdlin
Gerry Sverdlin  

Hello Dan (Missouri, United States).  

Thank you for your inquiry.  The short answer to your question is “yes.” But there is more to it for both you with you Buyer/Owner friend and the Inspector.  

Although it is not really my area of day-to-day practice, and I certainly have never practiced in Missouri, I dealt with inspectional services in my area of Massachusetts and the practice has many commonalities.  

If the Building Inspector failed to conduct a formal inspection and issue WRITTEN order of conditions or outright condemnation with specifically listed violations of building code, you could continue work on the building subject to subsequent inspection(s). After all, even if the condemnation issues, you would have to continue to improve the property to bring back into compliance, won’t you?  
1.   So, technically, the Owner could tell the inspector to go pound sand and be invited for inspection when the property is ready, BUT I would not recommend pissing the inspectional services off because they could make things really difficult for you all the way to the point when the property may become uninsurable.  Although I do not practice in your area of Missouri  - and I am overseas now anyway - I would go to the General Contractors in Missouri,, or Better Business Bureau (Find BBB Accredited General Contractors near Columbia, MO, ) and ask the same question from 2 or 3 different contractors who worked in the same area, as to how they deal with what’s called “over-zealous” inspectors or “over-inspection.”
2.   Try not to bring lawyers into the picture for as long as you can.  Lawyers have their place in the process, but besides costing you an arm and a leg beforehand lawyers will not help you pass the final building inspection after all repairs are done, and that is where the irate inspectors could score many expensive points against you and your wallet because they have sometimes wide discretion in the interpretation of all building codes.   My advice is to ONLY bring lawyers in the process when there is a stalemate in the process and, short of bribery, you absolutely can’t proceed with the property.
3.   You can sue inspectors, or any municipal personnel, in negligence, but they are all covered by sovereign immunity, and a maximum recoverable amount of compensation is limited by a state law – and that is a lengthy process anyway – much longer that house repair/improvement cycles.
4.   Even before you get to the lawyers, go to the Attorney General’s office, Consumer Protection Section,   Consumer Protection - Missouri Attorney General, (Consumer Protection - Missouri Attorney General, and ask them for a recommended course of action.
5.   As a last resort, if the overzealous inspector does harass you by driving by and demanding the full-blown inspection, go to the inspectional services and request an appeal hearing.  That will give you some time to finish repairs.  Then  show up at any hearings with photographs of BEFORE & AFTER.
I wish you every success in your process.
Gerry Sverdlin, PE, Esq.
Doha, Qatar  

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Gerry Sverdlin


Questions I can answer or provide assistance to reflect the following subjects: contract terms and conditions, interpretation of ambiguity, construction management and practices, claims for costs and time, variation / change orders, disputes, dispute resolution techniques and organizations, claims for extra work or materials, delay analysis, disruption or interference, defective design and negligent supervision, construction risks and mitigation, warranties and insurance. Questions I can NOT answer: too numerous to list here.


Mr. Sverdlin provided over 20 years of services in dispute resolution and expert opinion of complex construction claims for extra work, delay & acceleration, defective design & installation, unauthorized deviations, differing site conditions, productivity loss, labor & material shortage, owner’s interferences, force majeure, bonding, warranties and insurance coverage. Mr. Sverdlin participated in dispute resolution proceedings regarding 10 mile sub-aqueous outfall tunnel at Deer Island Treatment Plant – Boston Harbor Project, and claims arising out of construction of the South Boston / South Bay Interchanges for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and multiple proceedings Middle East. Specialties: Mr. Sverdlin established expertise in construction contract preparation under EJCDC, AIA, FIDIC and agency-specific bespoke contract frameworks: procurement administration, resolving defects in scope of work coverage, specification and estimates, change order processing, project controls & cost recovery. Engineering practice encompasses design & procurement management of highway & rail transportation systems, wastewater treatment and drainage networks, key performance indicator regimen.

2011 - CIArb Member Grade 1999 - Attorney at Law – Massachusetts Bar, BBO # 642980 1992 - Registered Professional Engineer - PE: Lic. MA-36839 - Civil Affiliated Memberships: MBA - Massachusetts Bar Association DRBF - Dispute Review Board Foundation TASA - Technical Advisory Service for Attorneys

2010 - 2011 - American University in Dubai -Grad. Sch. of Business Administration Construction Contracts, Means & Methods, Claims & Changes, Project Controls March 2009 - Chamber of Commerce, Colombo, Sri Lanka – Construction Management Seminar Changes & Claims, EOT/Delay Damages, Loss of Productivity – Measured Mile 2000- 2007– Boston Architectural Ctr & Wentworth Inst. of Technology - Construction Law 1991- 1993 - Northeastern University, Boston, MA – Land Surveying, Sewage Disposal System Numerous continuing education specialty courses Suffolk University Law School - Juris Doctor, law -1993 – 1997 Northeastern University - MS, Construction / Public Works Management - 1993 Polytechnic University - BS, Civil Engineering 1982 – 1985

Past/Present Clients
Representative Projects Dubai International Airport UAE Muscat & Salalah Int'l Airports Oman South River Dredging Mechanical Scituate, MA Permitting / Boundary Dispute (Title V) Worcester, MA Hazardous Material Site Assessment New Bedford, MA Groundwater Pollution Monitoring Burlington - Woburn, MA Hazardous Material Disposal - Site Clean-up Wrentham, MA Sewer Rehabilitation Project – STEP Abu Dhabi, UAE Dubai Metro - Road & Transportation Authority, Dubai, UAE Boston Harbor Project - Deer Island MWRA - BHP Winthrop, MA 1,200 MGD Waste-Water Treatment Plant Doha North Sewerage Treatment Works Ashghal, Doha, Qatar 254K m3/d STP, 25-km triple force mains, 33-km Interceptor Sewers 10,000 l/s PS Central Artery / Tunnel Project - MHD / MTA Boston, MA 116 lane-miles Old Colony Railroad - Commuter Rail (Boston, MA 70+ mi) Cherry St. Reconstruction Full-Depth Bridgewater, MA 2.1 mi Scenic Roads Reconstruction Town-wide Wayland, MA 8.7 mi Strawberry Hill Rd Reconstruction Full-Depth Concord, MA 1.7 mi Craigsville Beach Rd Reconstruction Full-Depth Hyannis, MA 3.4 mi Water Main Replacement Southborough, MA EMAAR – Gulf III Towers, Dubai, UAE Mixed-Use Hi-Rise Peabody Properties Residential Hi-Rise Lynn, MA Bristol Properties Shopping Mall Attleboro, MA May Institute (children w/special needs) Institutional Randolph, MA Bear Hill Executive Park Commercial Waltham, MA Prospect Hill Executive Park Commercial Waltham, MA Residential Community Subdivision 128 lots Hopkinton,MA Retirement Community Subdivision Residential – 126-lots Warren,MA Independence Mall Retail Kingston, MA Mashnee Village Subdivision Residential – 54-lots Buzzards Bay, MA Hyannis Industrial Park Heavy Commercial

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