Texas City Sued for Wrongful Teardown of Home

By EMILY SCHMALL | May 30, 2014

Jorge Rodriguez was hoping for an early retirement to his native Mexico.

Instead, the 56-year-old concrete pourer is suing the city of Fort Worth, Texas, for wrongfully tearing down a house he planned to fix up and sell. The suit marks the third time in a year the city is accused of mistakenly tearing down a home.

Jorge Rodriguez says in the suit filed this week in district court that he received a “partially illegible letter” last May stating his house was scheduled for a teardown. Rodriguez says he went to the city’s planning department and was assured the letter was a clerical error. Nevertheless, the house was later demolished. He’s seeking $50,000 in damages.

“Just imagine having a house, and then a week later, an empty lot, not even grass,” said Isaac Rodriguez, the plaintiff’s son.

The city, however, says that the demolition was no accident.

“For approximately 18 months, issues concerning the property were heard by both the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission and the Building Standards Commission,” says city of Fort Worth spokesman Bill Begley. The Building Standards Commission finally ordered the house’s demolition.

Isaac Rodriguez says his father purchased the property for $17,000 in October 2012. A January 2013 photo on Google Maps shows a squat, one-story house with missing shingles and boarded-up windows.

Rodriguez had fixed the house’s foundation, but was otherwise just using it to store tools and equipment when it was razed, according to his son.

The city last year temporarily halted the demolition of substandard structures when a contractor was discovered to have mistakenly razed two other homes.

City officials settled a lawsuit for $62,500 in April with one couple whose home was wrongfully destroyed.

The contractor, Garrett Demolition, Inc., had mistakenly torn down the couple’s three-bedroom home rather than the condemned building next door.

The day before, Garrett Demolition tore down two homes on the same north-side lot. The order was to raze just one house that had suffered fire damage.

A photograph of the demolition notice shared with The Associated Press shows that Garrett Demolition was also responsible for tearing down Rodriguez’s house.

“Whether they were the right ones or not, as a contractor that does work for the city, obviously, we do the work they tell us to do,” said April Collmar, the demolition company’s operations manager.

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