If you are living in a house with a collapsed roof, your municipality will likely condemn the property as unsafe for habitation. This process varies from city to city, but all cities require that you are afforded due process -- your day in court. You must be notified of the proceedings and given an opportunity to answer to the charges that your home is unsafe. You are also given a chance to fix your roof to make the property habitable.
Municipalities must have building codes or laws regarding property condemnation that enable them to begin proceedings. Such laws protect your constitutional right to due process. You must be served a notice stating that the roof is collapsed and this condition presents a danger to those who live in and around the house. Condemnation is a last resort for a municipality, but it is done in an effort to preserve the safety of the people living in or visiting the home and also to protect the property values of those living near the blighted property.
Typically you, the homeowner, will be served a notice that your roof is collapsed and you are to appear at a hearing on a certain date to respond to this notice. If you don't appear, the case is typically moved to the next phase, which is to condemn the property. If you do appear, the city tells you what building code you have violated and what you must do to correct the violation. You are given a specific amount of time set by the regulation to complete the repairs. If you fail to do so, or are unable to, condemnation proceedings begin.
If your property is condemned, the city will order it vacated. That means you and your family must move out and cannot re-enter the property. In some municipalities, you can be charged with criminal trespass if you do re-enter the home. The city will then demolish your house, and the demolition costs will be entered as a lien on your property or may be tacked onto your property taxes. Either way, you are on the hook for the costs.
Actions and Implications
If your roof collapses, you should contact your insurance company immediately to file a claim. If the reason the roof collapsed is covered by your policy -- and that reason includes shoddy workmanship -- the company will assess the damage and determine the cost of fixing it. You, or your roofer, will receive a check from the insurance company to fix the roof. If the roof collapsed due to negligence on your part, you must cover the roof replacement yourself. If your property is condemned and your home demolished, you must still pay the mortgage and property taxes. The deed you receive after your mortgage is paid off grants you title to the land on which your property is built. The structure on the land is irrelevant. If your house is demolished, the land remains yours and you still have to pay for it, with or without a house to live in.
Julie Segraves is a freelance writer and photographer. She has written for several community newspapers in Chicago and authors her own blog. Segraves graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelor's in sociology and a minor in criminal justice. She currently works in the IT field as a mainframe operations analyst and disaster recovery specialist.