Moral/legal dilemma

For once I don’t think I’m being scrupulous. My husband and I bought a house over 6 years ago. Shortly after we moved in, we began to have problems with a bathroom that the previous owners had installed in an existing addition. In time we began to suspect that the bathroom had been installed without a permit b/c it had so many problems. We should have pursued litigation at the time, but now the statute of limitations is up. Two years ago I had a reversion experience and in time I began to realize that we weren’t paying property taxes on a third bathroom b/c the city website only had us down for two bathrooms. So I called the city and told them we had three bathrooms and was prepared to accept an increase in our taxes. But the assessor told me that unless square footage had been added on, another bathroom wouldn’t change our taxes much. Well, from what I could see the city had the proper square footage/house plan drawn on their website, and so I thought everything was fine. But as more time has gone on and I’ve learned more about property taxes, I see that the space where the bathroom is in, is listed as “enclosed porch” instead of “finished living area”. In other words, the city has no idea that space is now “finished” and we are paying taxes at a lower rate on that part of the house. It’s only 78 square feet, and through extensive calculations (which I won’t go into now), I’ve figured that we’re paying about $35 less a year than we should be. But over 6-7 years it adds up to $243. I want to just go down to the city office and take care of this–get the proper permits and either fix the bathroom (which could be VERY expensive due to the issues involved) or turn the bathroom into a closet for all I care–whatever it takes to make it right. However, my husband is furious and does not want to do anything about it. He is the sole-income earner and doesn’t want to pay to fix the mistakes even though we have the money. So I suggested that he not use the bathroom or let our grown son use it (since we are not paying the proper tax amount on it), but he refuses to stop using it. God knows I am willing to correct this problem, but also knows that my husband is not willing and it’s going to cause big problems in our marriage. So I decided to find out what percentage of our taxes goes to different areas (city, county, library, schools, etc.) and make charitable contributions to those places in the amount of $243. It won’t go EXACTLY where it should have gone, but it’s the best I can do. I’m also praying for God to change my husband’s heart. I did tell him that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES will I ever lie to a potential buyer if we ever sell this house. The cards will all be out on the table, and he knows this. I guess my question is, “Am I doing enough? Will God hold me accountable for not going down to the city by myself and straightening this out? Or will He understand my reasons for not doing so?”

Yes, you are doing enough. In my opinion you did enough when you made the first call and they told you not to worry about.

Does your husband know you are sending the $ and is he OK with that?

I think the greater sin would be to disobey your husband’s wishes.

Just saying.

Now let it go. Spend your time on more constructive things like feeding the poor or visiting the elderly in nursing homes. This honestly seems like much ado over nothing.

You’ve done more than enough. Perhaps a still scrupulous though? It sounds as if it’s nonusable anyways. I wouldn’t consider that finished at all.

Well, you can take a shower, but you can only use the toilet for #1 and you can’t put toilet paper down it. It was built without a plumbing vent (which our home inspector didn’t even see!) and although we have never dug up the ground, we suspect the waste doesn’t go where it’s supposed to legally. Let’s just say it would cost thousands of dollars to redo it. I don’t even use it at all, but my husband and son do. The other part of the “enclosed porch area” (which has finished walls and floors) is just where we come in from the garage and sit on a bench and take off our shoes. We’re prepared to take a loss at selling time.

Awww! Can we agree that Bill1940 is the sweetest?!

Furthermore, you didn’t do the work without permits, the previous owner did. It was their violation not yours. In any event, the statute of limitations for prosecuting the violations has expired, and even if it were not, you are not the guilty party. You only feel guilty without good reason. The assessor, who is human, does not hold you accountable. God who is divine mercy, will not hold you accountable either. I am not just a layman with regard to the facts of the matter. I am a retired building official. You may want someday to hire a plumber to correct the errors of plumbing done by amateurs. Get a plumbing permit and city inspection. This will resolve the matter and obviate any need to disclose the bad plumbing to a future buyer. This is wise, as when there is such a problem, sellers can suffer price reduction in excess of the real cost of repairs. That’s just the way things work. Finally, I think there’s an element of scrupulosity involved, and I think I’m qualified to opine on this as well but enough of my resume. Take a deep breath, relax, be at peace… and tell your husband that I think he has a treasure of a wife. God Bless you both.

[FONT=“Comic Sans MS”]God bless you too! This is a most helpful post. Yes, I’m hoping one day my husband will change his mind and agree to get a permit and fix the issues. If not, we will disclose to the buyer. Thanks again!
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Oh geez, I’m sorry to hear you’ll have to take a loss at selling time; I hope not.

who told you the statute of limitations has run?

I am amazed that you would spend even 5 minutes worrying about this. I have heard that there many technicalities in our own building code. There are such things as, “a bedroom that doesn’t have a closet is not really a bedroom”, etc.

In my opinion, if the former owner “bootlegged” a bathroom in without telling the city and did a bad job of it, maybe this isn’t really a bathroom. I think it would be more honest to have your house legally listed as two bathrooms because the third bathroom doesn’t even work properly.

I made an assumption that the laws in Veronica’s state were similar to those here. The prosecution on a violation is limited to three months. More importantly, the City cannot bring a punitive action against the innocent party. The limits for the buyer to bring a civil action against the seller are another matter and apt to vary from state to state. The legal aspects can be complicated but in no way should Veronica worry about it adversely affecting her.

It seems to me that you are way overthinking this. From your description of the added bathroom it may be a detriment to the value of the house. Maybe your property taxes should go down, not up.

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