You buy your dream house. You move in, unpack your boxes, and find the perfect places on the walls for your favorite photographs, line bookshelves with your childhood storybooks, and carefully place all your fine dinnerware received as wedding and anniversary gifts. You build a home for you and your family, creating memories of gratitude and cheer reflecting on how lucky you are. But then it starts to fall apart—and not because of problems with your child at school or an extramarital affair—no your family is happy, but your house literally starts to crack and crumble. This is what happened when a landslide in the city of North Salt Lake began to destroy a home in August of this year. But the city refused to take responsibility, and now many of the neighborhood residents have hired a Salt Lake City real estate lawyer, claiming that they should have been informed of the potential danger of the area.
But North Salt Lake City Manager Barry Edwards told the news media, “We’re not responsible because we were not up there doing anything.” Which may or may not fly, in terms of legal defensibleness, a real estate lawyer like R. Tee Spjute might say. Other attorneys, like the one already hired by one of the North Salt Lake residents, says that Edwards’ claim will absolutely not hold up. “The city should have issued a stop order last Fall when neighbors started to notice fissures and cracks,” many of which were reported to the city, but Edwards claims otherwise, saying, “Neither the city nor the developer seemed to be aware of the problem.”
Doing almost everything to avoid admitting legal liability, the city issued a statement that, to residents, sounded like “bunch of legal mumbo jumbo.” Yet the city did offer its sympathy and regret with an assurance that North Salt Lake will work hard to find out who is at fault for what happened. Meanwhile, residents see their home values plummeting and are anxious about more landslides and further destruction of property in the area. A Salt Lake City real estate lawyer hired by the residents have said that the sympathetic statement by the city may be politically correct, but it’s neither morally nor legally correct, and the residents plan to take the city to court.
The city hasn’t eliminated the possibility of paying out the residents for their homes, but again, making doubly sure to indicate that it would be for humanitarian reasons, careful to avoid admitting liability. Which is frustrating, disheartening and angering to area residents, who want answers and accountability. That may be something they never get, a Salt Lake City real estate lawyer like R. Tee Spjute could say, since liability can be a tricky issue. In the meantime, North Salt Lake City Manager Edwards reports having “a lot of people on the slide slope gathering data,” and hopes to find out more about the causes and further damage potential. Let’s hope they can do it responsibly, and in time for other residents.