Property Rights Foundation of America®

from PRFA's Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights
October 18, 2008

Certificate of Occupancy without Building Inspection

Kenneth Switzer
Rock Stream, New York

I'm from the Town of Reading, Schuyler County. It's in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I carry this big book around because this is what it took. I literally have hundreds of letters to everybody, from Assemblymen, Congressmen, town board, to board members at other counties next door.

What had happened is that my local code enforcer was a new code enforcer. I'm building this nice house and I followed all the laws, got all the permits. I let my previous code enforcement officer inspect everything, had no problems, following the law. Then one day my other code enforcer asked for a permit. He proceeded to give me a new permit for a house. I got a permit for my house seven years earlier. It's quite a long project.

In essence, I took issue with that because that gave him the right to come in and inspect my house. So I told him, "I take issue with that." He says, "Well, you're gonna get an inspection or else I'm going to evict you today." Which I told him, "Go ahead, evict me, because if you evict me I've been here longer than the three-year statute of limitations in New York and that way you'll be violating my constitutional rights."

I said this because I'm not worried about the building code. I just want to get him on violation of constitutional rights.

I said, "If I can't get you on the state violation, I'll get you on the federal one. But in that case your local law of 1987 on building codes says I have to have a certificate of occupancy. Now we have a dilemma. I'm not going to let you inspect my house, OK. But I contest the permit, which means you're gonna have to find a way to give me a certificate of occupancy."

Needless to say, long story short, they don't want to do that.

I told him, "I'll sign a waiver saying that I won't come after you, you don't come after me." Over the course of a year and a half, I hit him with every law I could. After a while, I went and retained a lawyer, because the town put me in the hands of their lawyer, who happened to be the mayor of the nearby city. So there's some politics involved.

So, as I said, I went and retained my own lawyer. I've got to tell you, lawyers don't want to touch these controversial cases. I retained my lawyer for $250, and she told me, "Don't talk about this case, don't talk to anyone, don't go to your town board." So I agreed and then I proceeded to hit my town board with every law known to man, except the case that I had—motor vehicle laws, personal protection, OSHA laws, safety laws, New York State health laws for smoking. You name it, I did it. I don't have too many friends in my town.

But the long story again is persistence, patience, and perseverance. Just keep going at 'em. As Jason Knox said, politicians do not like to have trouble caused against them. I caused all the local politicians a lot of trouble and that's probably the only thing that worked.

They gave me my certificate of occupancy. I signed a waiver, saying that I wasn't going to allow them in and they weren't going to inspect my house, and I wasn't going to sue them. Needless to say, I got the certificate of occupancy and there were no inspections. And that's all I did. I thank you for your time. Thank you.

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