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Have debris or demolition plan before selling tornado-damaged property

News release issued by the City of Joplin

In Joplin and Duquesne, this post-tornado period can be both a buyer’s and seller’s market.  With that in mind, both sides should carefully consider the debris/demolition status of a property before completing a real estate sale. 

If you are a seller, the loose debris on your residential property can – and should – be carried to the curbsides and public rights-of-way by July 22, to take advantage of the last pass for government-funded debris pickup. 

If you still have a storm-damaged structure that needs to be removed, consider having it demolished before selling the property.  If possible, hire a reputable, certified contractor.  Make sure the contractor hauls the debris directly to a proper landfill; it should not be pushed to a public right-of-way.

If you are a buyer, however, the options are different.   In short, a new owner will be responsible for completely removing tornado and/or demolition debris from the property and disposing of it at a proper landfill. If a new owner buys the property, this debris cannot be pushed to the curbside or public rights-of-way, because it is not eligible for federal reimbursement or direct pickup under Federal Emergency Management Agency program guidelines. 

So why are the rules different for sellers and buyers?  The answer lies in the federal regulations that govern disaster debris removal and/or demolition. Simply put, federal disaster assistance – in this case debris removal and/or demolition of structures posing an imminent threat to public health and safety – is only available to the legal property owner of record at the time the damage occurred.  A buyer would not meet this standard because they did not yet own the disaster-damaged property.  Furthermore, the seller cannot assign these rights to the buyer. 

In the City of Joplin, there is no requirement that a property be cleared of debris or a hazardous structure before it is sold, according to Joplin City Attorney Brian Head.  However, the city is enforcing its nuisance ordinances to ensure that a damaged property does not continue to pose a public health and safety hazard. What this means for a new owner of tornado-damaged property is that you will be responsible for removing the debris and/or demolishing the house yourself.

If you are considering buying or selling a storm-damaged property that is not yet completely cleared, consult an attorney or real estate professional before proceeding so that you can make an informed choice.


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