Resolution sought on Pittsburgh man's leveled 'dream' house
From a cracked sidewalk next to a vacant lot in Sheraden, Andre Hall recalled the chilly January morning he found crews at 3224 Motor St. mistakenly demolishing the 1,600-square-foot house he envisioned as the haven for his growing family.
“The contractors, the city, someone screwed up,” he said. “For two years, I've been waiting for anyone to acknowledge what happened to me, and then I see the contractor who tore down my dream still got paid. What about us?”
The city settled a lawsuit last week filed by demolition contractor John Deller, owner of P.J. Deller Inc. and Deller Professional Services Inc. Pittsburgh agreed to pay the Richland contractor $9,500 because Deller claimed the city failed to pay him for the 2011 demolition. Neither side admitted responsibility.
Hall, 42, said on Monday he plans to amend a civil claim he filed against Deller in August to include the city because he hasn't been compensated. Hall didn't estimate the value of his losses. He said he filed the lawsuit to force someone to acknowledge the mistake.
Neither Deller nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
“I wanted this to be a place for my three little girls to grow up,” Hall said. “When I got here, all my building materials — the wood, the drywall, this stuff I had ready to install — and my tools were missing. I still can't get work because no one wants to hire a guy in construction who doesn't have any tools.”
Hall said he is living alone in a one-bedroom apartment. His children are living in Kansas City, Kan., with their mother.
Hall entered into a sales agreement with property owners Harry and Lorraine Sweitzer for the value of at least eight years' worth of delinquent property taxes three months before P.J. Deller Inc., leveled the home, then valued at $42,800.
At the time, Hall said, the Sweitzers' back taxes were about $15,000.
Hall said he didn't make a payment, but he completed extensive improvements to the property and notified the Bureau of Building Inspection. The two-story home was scheduled for demolition in late 2010, but in November, the bureau rescinded the demolition order and notified Deller.
“They got a notice and filed an injunction the way they were supposed to,” city demolition manager Paul Loy said of Hall and Sweitzer.
When a property is condemned, a homeowner is notified with a home visit, including a to-do list and deadline and at least twice by mail. Owners may request more time, Loy said, “but demolition is always a last resort.”
“These two, they followed all the rules,” he said. “I still have no idea if it was a miscommunication on the part of the contractor or something with his crew. It doesn't matter. They screwed up. This shouldn't happen to someone when they're trying to fix up a home.”
The Sweitzers, who still owe $22,000 on the vacant property they paid $7,000 to buy in 1974, declined to discuss Hall's claims.
Lorraine Sweitzer, 68, said she's frustrated with Hall and the city.
“This isn't about (Hall),” Sweitzer said. “They tore down my house.”
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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