Family's West Side home demolished

October 18, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Frances Funches stood on the empty lot where her house used to be. She owned it since the early '80s and was recently preparing to rent it out to tenants. Those plans were put on hold when the house caught fire last month. But while Funches was waiting for her insurance company to process her claim, she made a disturbing discovery.

"The house was here October 6. October 7 it was gone," said Funches.

The house had been demolished, and Funches says she wasn't notified by the city about plans to tear it down. Her attorney says fire damage was mainly to the rear of the house and says it was boarded up while her insurance company was determining whether it was safe.

"I think that Mrs. Funches should have been given an opportunity for the claims adjuster to do their job," said Mable Taylor, Funches' attorney.

Two days after the September 26th fire, the city building department inspected the house and it was determined it wasn't safe. On October 7, they executed what's called an emergency demolition.

A spokesperson says, "almost half of the structure had been compromised during the fire. Buildings that experience this amount of damage are a danger to collapse and pose a threat to the community, nearby buildings and first responders. The Department of Buildings checks its databases in an attempt to determine ownership information and then contact owners regarding buildings damaged by fire. In this case, no owner information was readily available."

A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings says it has the authority to demolish a house, if it's deemed unsafe. Still, Funches and her attorney are looking into whether they'll sue the city .

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