Why do cities allow construction of condos, homes over abandoned underground mines?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities (IAC)

Google maps view of Cornerstone Condominiums

It seems that about once a week I read at least one report of relatively new homes or condos built upon land that presents some kind of hazard. In Eastern Ohio, the sudden collapse of an abandoned mine shaft presents one possible safety hazard, not to mention extensive property damage.

ABC News5, Cleveland, reports that several residents of Cornerstone Condominiums in Wadsworth, and one resident of an older single family home nearby, have been ordered by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to abandon their homes while the agency investigates the source of earth movement and major structural cracks in home foundations.

 

Residents forced from their homes in Wadsworth where mine collapse may have damaged condos

Bob Jones
4:29 PM, Jul 17, 2017
6 hours ago

WADSWORTH, Ohio – On her two year anniversary of living at Cornerstone Condominiums in Wadsworth, Connie Bechtel was forced to move out for her own safety.

Within the last few weeks, a large crack formed in her first floor ceiling and several other cracks developed along her basement floor and walls. In addition, one of her inside doors won’t close. She has propped up two by fours to keep it from swinging open.

The noises are scary and make her wonder if the condo is sinking.

“It’s making all kinds of noise, just popping and binging and the upstairs, you hear big thuds like somebody is falling on the floor,” Bechtel said.

City officials posted notices to vacate Bechtel’s Salwa Lane home, three other condos, and a house on Reimer Road where an elderly woman lives.

In the Reimer Road house, a foundation wall collapsed, spilling dirt, debris and concrete into the basement.

“The house is about ready to fall through the ground it looks like,” said Bill Pelfrey, the senior citizen’s son.
Read more (Video):

http://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-medina/wadsworth-residents-forced-from-homes-after-shifting-causes-wall-and-foundation-damage

 

Condo owner, Connie Bechtel, interviewed by ABC News5, is particularly upset because her insurance policy does not cover damages due to mine subsidence. That would require a separate mine subsidence insurance policy.

Owners of property in 26 of Ohio’s 37 counties are mandated by law to carry mine subsidence insurance. In 11 other counties, mine subsidence insurance is optional.

Bechtel’s Wadsworth home is located in Medina County, where the purchase of insurance coverage for mine subsidence is optional.

As of 2013, Ohio real estate law updated the Residential Property Disclosure form, which now “Provides the purchaser with information on abandoned underground mines and directs purchasers to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for additional information.”

See the fourth paragraph from page 5 of the Residential Property Disclosure Form below.

Source: http://www.ohiorealtors.org/wp-content/uploads/LEGAL/RPDF2013.pdf

A buyer is now put on notice that their home might be located above an abandoned underground mine. But the onus is on that buyer to contact ODNR and inquire about any possible risk that applies to their home.

Not very consumer friendly, especially if the buyer skims over the fine print in the heat of the moment when making an offer to purchase a home.

Did Bechtel do her due diligenct and contact ODNR to investigate the existence of an abandoned underground mine? That detail is not reported.

One question that comes to mind  – was the possible existence of an abanodoned underground mine researched by the title insurance company, and, if so, was this information disclosed to Bechtel prior to closing?

Another detail not reported.

Unfortunately, not having mine subsidence insurance when you need it is a very big deal. In Bechtel’s case, she has been told it could cost $200,000 to repair her condo to make it safe again. However, a quick search of recent real estate sales at Cornerstone Condominium reveals sale prices between $108,000 – $138,000.

But an even larger concern is that local governments – in this case, the City of Wadsworth – routinely allow developers to build homes and businesses on land that sits on top of abndoned underground mines.

City officials generally explain that the risk of a catastrophe or serious property damage is low.

But they should also acknowledge that the municipality stands to benefit from property tax revenue collected on those questionably suitable land parcels.

One can also assume that any new home builder, in the process of obtaining a construction permit, comes to know about the existence of abadoned mines. If that is the case, then why isn’t the home builder required by law to specifically disclose this fact, rather than relying on the seller property discolsure form to prompt a home buyer to contact ODNR?

One common theme in the real estate industry is to disclose as little information as possible, or, in other words, whatever the law requires, and nothing more. Because if a buyer knew all the possible risks involved in purchasing a particular home or condo, that buyer might decide to walk away from a sale.

 

References:

Ohio Realtors website:

http://ohiorealtors.org/legal/topics/disclosure-issues/2013-residential-property-disclosure-form/

 

ODNR Department of Geological Survey

 

Mine Subsidence Insurance in Ohio:

http://minerals.ohiodnr.gov/abandoned-mine-land-reclamation/mine-subsidence-insurance

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