There was an interesting article in the news lasted week about a woman in Texas whose house was torn down by mistake when a demolition crew accidentally tore down her house. The article appeared throughout the media last week – the apparent cause was a Google Maps mistake that lead the workers to the wrong house. This is an almost unbelievable story, but it brings up a number of important issues.
Our Los Angeles based real estate attorneys have answered several related questions, below, to shed more light on this incident:
This is really the developer’s or contractor’s mistake. They should have verified the address outside of looking at a google map. From a legal perspective, contractors, builders and homeowners are not entitled to rely on google maps for proper boundaries, for surveys or even for property location. The proper legal addresses and descriptions are recorded and referenced at the county recorder’s office in the county where the property is located. This action by the developer/builder appears to be negligent at best.
I have not seen this before. It does not appear to be very common because contractors and developers will typically obtain a survey of the property before commencing work. A survey identifies the proper boundaries to a property and is important for a developer in order to make sure they can plan their project property and maximize the use of the legally described property. As part of any legal survey the surveyor would read the legal description of the property and properly identify the property at issue. Of course, this would not involve the use of an online mapping service.
What can homeowners do to prevent this?
This is so odd it may be difficult to prevent. That said, if you google your own house or use one of the various mapping services and know that it is not accurate you could notify the web service of the same.
And if their home is accidentally torn down, what recourses do they have?
The homeowners could sue the party who incorrectly tore down the house for the value of the house and the damaged possessions therein. The homeowner has claims for trespass, nuisance, trespass to chattel and, among other claims, conversion. These are all claims arising from the improper entry onto the property and the destruction of the house. I would expect the homeowner to be fully compensated by the party who improperly tore down the house.
Are there any other instances homeowners should watch out for in terms of contracting mistakes along these lines?
Yes, some of the real estate listing websites often have interior photos that may not be current or accurate. Much like your own reputation online, I recommend periodically checking on your house’s “reputation” online to see what the world is seeing about your real property.
For more information on your real estate matter, contact us at Schorr Law, APC, 310-954-1877, firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer free 30 minute consultations for general real estate matters.