Susan Hodgson, of Atlanta, recently received the type of call homeowners dread while on holiday: a panicked neighbor, calling her up to ask: “Did you hire somebody to tear your house down?”
The family property, which had been boarded up but diligently cared for over the last 15 years, was mistakenly demolished after a local construction company went to the wrong address.
Hodgson returned home from vacation to a pile of rubble, which she’s now on the hook for cleaning up.
“I’m just left with a big old mess,” she told FOX 5, who investigated the case after Hodgson revealed the contractors initially refused to play ball and fix their mistake.
Here’s what happened and why you should always expect the unexpected when protecting your home.
Happy memories bulldozed
Luckily, no one was living in Hodgson’s property at the time of its accidental demolition in October 2023. In fact, it was boarded up for about 15 years prior to its demise — but Hodgson insisted she kept it “covered, the grass cut, the yard cleaned up, taxes paid…” and so on.
She also said she has happy memories of the house, describing it as “a fun place” where the family had “a lot of good times.” In particular, it reminded her of her husband, who died years ago.
“It’s just hard to believe somebody just thinks they’ve got the right to come out and tear something up and just walk away,” she said, claiming the contractors did not apologize for their error or make a timely offer to fix their mistake. When FOX 5 contacted the Atlanta-based contractor, they said they were investigating the matter and working to rectify it.
While that played out, another issue arose from the rubble. Shortly after the demolition, Hodgson noticed a “Stop Work Order” from Atlanta’s Department of City Planning, giving her two weeks to “fix it, clean it up, and get it all done, and have the proper permits” — all for a project she never wanted.
The city issued the following statement to FOX 5: “The correction notice affords the property owner the opportunity to bring the property into compliance. No citation has been issued to date. The structure on the property was demolished without a permit which is a violation of city code. The property owner is responsible for their property and for any violations that occur pertaining to that property.
“The demolition of the property without the owner’s consent or knowledge is not a matter for the city of Atlanta. This is considered a civil matter between the property owner and the alleged responsible party.”
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Always expect the unexpected
While the chances of accidental demolition are slim — especially if your house looks well-kept, lived-in and you’re close with your neighbors — it’s always important to expect the unexpected when it comes to protecting your home.
That’s where home insurance — or renters insurance if you don’t yet own a home — really comes into play.
The Insurance Information Institute lists the top causes of home insurance claims as: wind and hail, fire and lightning, water damage and freezing, all other property damage, liability and theft.
Consider water damage, which is one of the most common and costly home insurance claims — and one that could spike in severity if you’re away from your property on vacation.
Generally, if the cause of the water damage is sudden and accidental, like a burst pipe, then a homeowners or renters insurance policy will cover water-related damage to the structure of your home and your personal belongings. In the case of renters insurance, it may also help to cover the costs of water damage you cause to others.
Of course, not all risks are covered — water damage caused by a flood is typically not covered by a home insurance policy — but for a relatively small premium, you can rest easy and go on vacation knowing (with all likelihood) it’ll still be standing when you get back.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.