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Randyl vs City of Richmond

When I got the message that “Mayor Stoney is giving us 30 days to vacate our house on N Street”, my first thought was, “dammit Levar, really?”

It ain’t quite that, but it’s a good one.

You probably know Randyl Walter and Leslie Basinger’s house if you’ve been on Chimborazo over the last 5 years, it’s unique to say the least – big, white, maybe sort of shaped like a boat. Get closer and you might hear the chickens, or see one of the peahens and the beehives, or notice the security cameras at the corners of the house.

The house is equally unique on the inside. The main room is wide open, with a steel beam across the peak. All of the doors are on slides, and the stairs up from the basement and up to the next floor are wide slatted and a little higher than usual. There are baby chickens in a little warm hutch.

Aesthetics aside, the space was designed to be stroller and power chair friendly Leslie, who has multiple sclerosis and has difficulty walking.

Randyl built this house in 2012 — or more accurately, has been building this house since 2010 and maybe isn’t quite finished yet. This has put him in a pickle with the city.

The Randyl vs City of Richmond conflict flared up 3 weeks ago or so, when Randyl says a building inspector from the city came out to check out a new shed that he had recently built. At question is whether or not a building permit was necessary, and whether the shed is a shed or maybe part of the house.

Randyl recounts bluntly that he did not like having the inspector come onto his property without permission, that he told the man that, and that encounter did not go amicably. A stop work order was issued.

A week after kicking the inspector out of his yard, Randyl says that Code Enforcement Inspector David Alley called, to discuss the fact that there is no Certificate of Occupancy for the house, and never has been.

This is retribution for kicking the inspector off of his property, according to Randyl.

“I don’t have to have anybody on my property that I don’t want,” says Randyl. ‘You don’t just come on my property and I find you in my garage. […] Now I am being completely harassed.”

Randyl concedes that the house has never passed a final electrical or building inspection, has no active permits, and that there is no CO, but says that there was an agreement with city back in 2015 that has gone awry.

Let’s step back a few years… During the initial construction of the house, the original process of inspections was derailed, says Randyl, when an incompetent inspector caused them months of delay with bad advice. The inspector later asked for a bribe and was fired, says Randyl. During all of this, the original work permits expired.

Randyl and Leslie brought a lawsuit against the city (here, I think — JM). The lawsuit was dropped, Randyl says, when they reached a verbal agreement that their permits would be extended.

Following this, the house passed the mechanical and plumbing inspections. Randyl says he called for electrical and building inspections at the time, but city responded that he did not have active permits — counter to the oral agreement, says Randyl.

The electrical and building inspections never happened, and so there was never a Certificate of Occupancy. This is where everything had left off, until a few weeks ago.

After the shed thing put the house back on the on city’s radar, Alley and an electrical inspector came by to check out the house. Alley left a list of violations — while the electrical inspector has yet to provide his list, Randyl says. He says that the violations that the electrical inspector described while he was there are easily fixed, saying that the house is not unsafe, but that he has no idea of what the actual list of violations may be.

Regardless, the couple has been told that they have 30 days to fix the violations or they will be evicted from the property.

The main sticking point for Randyl and Leslie are the work permits. Randyl is adamant that they should not have to pay to get new permits, while the paperwork from the city states that they will need active permits before they can get the inspections necessary to legally occupy the property.

“We have no place to go. We’re not going anywhere, ” Randyl says when asked what they’re going to do. “The SWAT team is going to have to come drag me out with tear gas.”

“I just need the city to work with me on this,” he reflects.

[sep]

TOP PHOTO via Google July 2015

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42 Comments
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Katherine Jester
Katherine Jester
3 years ago

I think they should proceed with their lawsuit. Good luck to them.

Mike Buschmeier
Mike Buschmeier
2020 years ago

FB_10104068255550316

Morgan Bailey
Morgan Bailey
2020 years ago

FB_10105126944923133

Jeannie Casey Saxton
Jeannie Casey Saxton
2020 years ago

FB_10209734991303980

Leland Höth
Leland Höth
3 years ago

Cool house. Fuck the city

Jennifer C.
Jennifer C.
3 years ago

It’s really heartening to know there’s no electrical inspection on that firetrap. They might be great people but I can’t imagine trying to navigate that place full of smoke.

J
J
3 years ago

It would be nice to hear the city’s side of the story as well.

Vanya Wright
Vanya Wright
3 years ago

Randyl: get settlement agreements IN WRITING. Always. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist. If you have a claim, sue again, and this time make them write up any settlement agreements and sign them BEFORE you drop your suit.

Gretta
Gretta
3 years ago

That’s great that Randyl thinks he is so special and doesn’t have to go through normal processes that everyone else does.

Kay9
Kay9
3 years ago

Although I can appreciate the homeowners frustration with the permit and inspection process, it’s not ok to ignore it and simply not comply. If there were concerns that a rogue inspector caused such delays in the process, resulting in additional time and expense, there are ways to remedy that fault, if valid.

Simply dismissing the process is unacceptable by any logical standard.

Chris Key
Chris Key
3 years ago

I keep seeing suggestions of oral agreements, problem is an oral agreement doesn’t mean jack. Everything should be in writing, that’s just common sense. Cool house, but get your permits in order before you start to complain about the “process”.

David Bae
David Bae
3 years ago

Wahhhh

Bob Mueller
Bob Mueller
3 years ago

Dude sounds insufferable. It’s not that difficult to navigate the permitting process if you are careful, patient, and have even an iota of respect for the city and the reason permits exist.

I mean yelling at an inspector and demanding they leave your property? Did he think that was gonna solve his problem? What world does he live in where being an asshole gets you your way? Trump’s america, I guess.

Brett
Brett
3 years ago

I’ve been inside the house, it’s a great space. Randyl was kind enough to donate some building materials for a project.
He’s also a never wrong type personality. I hope he doesn’t represent himself, changes the dialogue and gets to stay in his home.

Eric Huffstutler
Eric Huffstutler
3 years ago

I always thought the house was an eyesore. A revolt against all things that represent historic coherence within a neighborhood. But, at the same time, where the house sits is in one of the notorious doughnut holes and so, does not fall within either the O&H or Church Hill North historic districts. The CAR has no jurisdiction. That said, there is no getting around having construction inspections and be cleared for occupancy before you can move in. That is common sense and the owner should have followed up and not ignore inspections, hoping the city would forget, before it got… Read more »

Megan Cassidy
Megan Cassidy
3 years ago

It takes a special sort of person to label receipt of a boilerplate permits/inspection document as “the mayor himself has given me 30 days to vacate.” Yeah, that’s it, Stoney is out to get you. How’s your “deconstruct the administrative state” tattoo coming in, Randyl?

Eric Huffstutler
Eric Huffstutler
3 years ago

FYI, if the house is not cleared for occupancy, it can “Condemned” until everything is up to code.

Matt Aldridge
Matt Aldridge
2020 years ago

FB_1446692958697826

Jason S
Jason S
3 years ago

“Sir, there’s no Certificate of Occupancy for this property.”

“BUT A GUY CAME ONTO MAH YARD!”

“because you built an additional structure on your property. It’s the inspectors job to inspect, sir.”

“BUT A GUY SAID IT WAS OK A FEW YEARS BACK! LEAVE ME BE!”

“Sir…”

“DAMNIT LAVAR! LEAVE ME BE!”

All jokes aside 🙂 I must say, this is local reporting at it’s best. Investigative, impartial, in-depth and intetesting. Tip of the cap to John M once again.

Jason S
Jason S
3 years ago

Also, the last two paragraphs of the story sound like Harvey Dent arguing with Two-Face.

Randyl, my man… that’s not a very effective negotiation strategy. If you’re reading this, I say this with all sincerity and genyine care for you my neighbor: you gotta be more chill towards others to get what you want in this world. Respect goes both ways.

Tony
Tony
3 years ago

Abuse of office, retaliation by the city inspector, remember the rehab code. I would suggest his attorney research the rehab code and sue the city and the inspector personally.

E
E
3 years ago

We built a house in Church Hill and had to deal with the Historical Association who nit pick about everything. The city delayed the process because the people employed are incompetent. Not once did we think we should abort the legal process and do what we want. This guy decided to continue on his own without respect for the law. I have no sympathy.

Daniel
Daniel
3 years ago

I’m sorry but let me get this straight… 1) A city inspector was sent to inspect a new shed being built, for a house with no Certificate of Occupancy? Is it just me or does that not make sense? 2) The city has known about this property being built since 2010, with no Certificate of Occupancy, why are they just looking into it now? This makes it sound like some incompetency from the city and Randyl. Since he has lived their five years, the city is going to have a hard time explaining why they have not enforced the rules… Read more »

Neighbor
Neighbor
3 years ago

Good try, but property taxes are due even on vacant and condemned properties.

WarGibFA
WarGibFA
3 years ago

Oral contracts are worth exactly the air they’re spoken with. City bureaucracy is a total pain in the butt, though.

Eric Huffstutler
Eric Huffstutler
3 years ago

@23 Neighbor,

Vacant and Condemned property was at one time certified for occupancy while the Basinger house has not. I think that is a point also being made here?

Annonymous
Annonymous
3 years ago

Some time ago (a year? two or three years?), I remember Randyl making some very interesting comments at a city MPACT meeting. For those who aren’t familiar with MPACT: http://www.richmondgov.com/MayorsParticipationActionCommunicationTeam/FAQ.aspx Basically, it’s a forum where citizens can voice concerns and be directed to the appropriate process/department/personal to get the problem solved (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) ANYWAY. Randyl came to the meeting to ask the MPACT coordinator and other officials present what he needed to do to get the permits and inspections to leave him and his family alone, claiming they were harassing him, trespassing on his… Read more »

Annonymous
Annonymous
3 years ago

I’m sorry, that came out a bit jumbled, I think faster than I can type, but I think my point is clear.

Kay9
Kay9
3 years ago

Any real property that has value will be assessed for tax purposes. Obviously, this home has value, CO or not.

mary
mary
3 years ago

Work done without permits – to say nothing of inspections – is rampant, at least in this part of town.

Not too long ago someone commented to a CHPN post that renovations on a commercial property on Venable Street were nearly complete and a tenant was being sought

….and it turned out there had been no building permit issued.

bill
bill
3 years ago

so when/where is this mpact mtg thing?

Eric Huffstutler
Eric Huffstutler
3 years ago

26-27 Annonymous, All I can say is WOW… WOW… how can this even happen and let go this long? His self admittance of building the house for himself and not for anyone else so basically F-You (the city) as though he is above the law and did not require permits? What part of those red flags the city did not recognize? Do they also expect to live forever and the house not sold in the future? Or it being safe and will not explode or catch on fire endangering nearby houses or lives? @29 mary, I know that for a… Read more »

bozatwork
bozatwork
3 years ago

I’ve ridden by the house for years in what seemed like a constant state of construction. My thoughts usually drifted to how disruptive it must be to neighbors. Regulations exist to protect everyone. Hey #2 Leland, how punk rock of you. How about you buy a house and have its foundation collapse, or repair a slow leak from plumbing that wasn’t inspected and rotted through supports, or enjoy an electrical fire from amateur installation. The City can be difficult to deal with but the permits and inspections exist to protect everyone. Wherever you build you will have to subject yourself… Read more »

bozatwork
bozatwork
3 years ago

Also, anything that requires permits will allow for inspectors onto the property. That’s just how it is legally, they have legal access to the property to inspect for the purpose of the permit and they can request any and all paperwork for it, so deal with it if you’re building. Nice there was no gas inspection either. Hope it doesn’t blow up. How do major services even get turned on for an address without permits and final inspections? The link to the 8/6/2010 post is kind of amusing too. Living in a trailer while constructing? Looks like a lot of… Read more »

JessOfRVA
JessOfRVA
3 years ago

While I empathize with the fear and anxiety a tenuous home situation can cause, I can’t help but point out that failure to observe the law is what’s led to this fear and anxiety. It’s a self made problem. You can wave a ‘don’t tread on me’ flag all you want, but until the laws are off the books, you still have to observe them. There are many laws in place for the government’s ability to make a buck or be a jerk. In this case it’s to make sure that there isn’t a fire–and if there is, the firefighters… Read more »

Dubois2
Dubois2
3 years ago

While I like most of our inspectors and consider them competent, professional and helpful, I’ve certainly had city workers looking for a quid pro quo for doing their ______ jobs. And a serous amount of basic incompetence, with a side of intentional obstructionism from the city building office, though not the inspectors themselves. All that said. Work this out. He’s obviously invested in his house; if it doesn’t meet code, he should have a few months to get there. That’s what they give other folks who fall behind, and this is obviously a cluster. And yeah. He needs someone who… Read more »

crd
crd
3 years ago

@35 If he files an appeal with the board as outlined in the notice, it will freeze everything including the eviction. And it could be months before that appeal is heard. If you know him, please so notify him, thanks, or contact the moderator of this blog who should now be aware of the specific portions of the code as to how to appeal.

Diana
Diana
3 years ago

If there is no Co or if the co is not in the current owner’s name the city has the right to enter your property and do an inspection.

Eric Huffstutler
Eric Huffstutler
3 years ago

What is the latest?

Lee
Lee
3 years ago

@Diana / @37 – I’m curious about your comment… (but certainly not arguing that this situation isn’t an egregious violation of building code!) Anyway: Lots of historic buildings which predate the building code or certain elements of the building do not have a CO, and as far as I know, any CO carries over to new buildings (I.e. you don’t have to have a city inspector out to buy a house). Just wondering what you meant…

Lee
Lee
3 years ago

***or which predate certain elements of the building code***

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