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House built without owner knowing

September 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The confusion began in 1987 for the Cavallaro family when they purchased a small parcel of land in Perris. They had planned to use it for investment. They wanted to sit on the land and sell it at some point. However, a couple of years ago, they drove by and saw that someone had built a house on their property. It turns out the builder was supposed to put the house on a vacant neighboring lot. The family says they tried to go after the builder but they can't find him. Several years later, they're still trying to clean up the mess.

"I don't know where to go next," said Judy Cavallaro, who owns the property in Perris. "I've contacted everybody. I've spent hours trying to find out what happened. Who made the mistake? What do I do next?"

Judy says she only visited her property about once a year.

"Well, I came by because I had a weed abatement notice. And I looked at the lot and they were building a house on it," said Judy.

She said, at first, no one at the city or county would believe her. She has the deed and a map that shows the parcel she owns.

It turns out the city of Perris let the builder start construction. Still, she says, no one knows exactly who is to blame.

"They built three houses on this street. They were supposed to skip my lot and go next door. And now ... there is a house on my lot," said Judy.

Currently, Judy says she is responsible for all the back property taxes on that home, which equals almost $7,000.

"This is a very unfortunate situation," said Joseph Vargo, writer for The Press-Enterprise. "As you know, the city of Perris does not set property taxes. The County Assessor's Office does. We've checked with the County Assessor's Office and they are investigating the matter."

Judy says a judge ruled that she can take the house. Still, she says, it's a situation she would rather not have.

"$15,000 to $20,000 in attorney fees right now. That's just attorney fees. And then another $7,000 for property taxes that we're paying. Plus, the inside of the house has to be completely redone if we want to try to recoup anything," said Judy. "We can't sell now because we'll never make anything back on it. So, we're going to try to fix it up to rent it out to pay some of these bills. Because we don't have the money. I'm just a school teacher."

A Perris spokesman says the reason nothing was questioned when the builder put the home up in 2003 was they had no reason to question him. The builder already had a couple of other parcels on the street. The city says the law has changed and that a survey is required before any builder begin working.

 

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