Lawrence Modic no longer owns a house on Manchester Road. How he came to buy and then lose the house to demolition presents a signal lesson in real estate transactions.
Modic bought the dilapidated, 1925 house in May for $10,000. He spent weekends trying to fix it, in the hope of establishing residency in Akron. But in September, after granting him time during the summer to fix the property, the Housing Appeals Board voted to demolish the house. Modic said he was not aware when he bought it that the house had been cited for numerous violations and was under orders for repairs. He failed to appeal the demolition order within the required 30 days. Worse still, he threatened to do violence against anyone who attempted to carry out the order.
Last week, a court rejected an appeal to block the demolition, and the house was pulled down Tuesday morning, along with another next door.
It has been too easy to see in this saga an unsympathetic city bureaucracy putting the screws on a homeowner — and an Army veteran at that — doing his best to save his property and investment. And Modic deserves some sympathy, insofar as those who sold him the property failed to disclose the problems the city had with it.
All said, Modic’s plight boils down to a question of responsibility: that of a seller fully to disclose problems that might reduce the value or desirability of a property and of a buyer to do his or her own due diligence in checking out the history of the property. In that regard, it is encouraging that city officials plan to find ways to make such information more easily accessible to the public. The Akron City Council also is noodling legislation to require sellers to disclose pending housing or zoning violations. The purpose here should be to fill in where existing rules and oversight are inadequate to prevent Modic’s unfortunate experience.
Modic’s was one of 650 houses Akron plans to demolish this year. About 2,000 more are under consideration. In the wake of a severe foreclosure crisis, the larger obligation is to prevent a glut of decrepit, vacant or abandoned properties from further dragging down the value of surrounding properties and depressing neighborhoods.