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St Louis Real Estate – What happened to property rights?


Dennis Norman

This story is part of my ongoing series on how local laws negatively impact the property rights of property owners in the St. Louis area

Unfortunately I don’t have to try too hard to find examples of local laws that seriously impact the rights of property owners in the St. Louis area, particularly those property owners that are landlords or other investors.

My story today comes from a friend of mine, a St. Louis REALTOR(R) that buys homes for his rental portfolio.  For the sake of the article, and to help him avoid retaliation from Velda City, I’m going to refer to this person as “Joe” in this article. 

Joe’s story is interesting, and scary.  Joe purchased a home in Velda City, a small municipalty of 1,600 people with an average household income of $35,745, and one of 91 municipalities in St. Louis County, Missouri.  Joe’s plan to was to rehab the house and rent it.

Velda City has an ordinance that requires an inspection by the City of the home before not only someone can move into the home (which is sort of typical), but also before ANY work can be done to the property.  This part of the ordinance is a little unusual…most municipalities allow a property owner to work on their property and try to bring it in compliance with all local building codes prior to having it inspected so long as the house is not occupied prior to being “passed” by the city.

In this case, my friend Joe went by the house he bought one day after buying it so that he could show a prospective tenant the house and describe the improvements he was going to make as well as to leave a few tools in the garage. 

Joe was present at the home he had purchased for a total of about 15 minutes when the Velda City Police showed up.  They questioned why he was “on” his property prior to getting the home inspected.  He explained that he was just showing the house to someone and dropping off some tools in the garage and assured the officer that no work was being done to the property.  Unfortunately Joes explanation didn’t matter, the officer wrote him a ticket for, basically being in the home he owned. 

So Joe got a ticket for being present on his property basically.


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4 comments to St Louis Real Estate – What happened to property rights?

  • jeff thompson

    I’m illegally marketing my house in bellefountaine. I’m also a contractor in bellefountaine. I often do the city check lists that Ted hands out. Funny that many of the items checked have nothing at all to do w safty. mostly nit picky busy work some times things I would not do to my home. The city is in the habit of makeing large financial decisions for people that could be negotiating factors in the sale of there homes. and its on a dedline. I know many Ted stories. I have a friend that had a warrent issued for not haveing a vent fan on time. The city is really doing us a disservice. What can I do to give them bad press?

  • Dennis Norman

    Hey Jeff,
    Thanks for the comment – I agree with you and think things are out of control in places like Bellefontaine – I don’t know if you caught my other articles about the lawsuit brought against the city of Bellefontaine by a real estate agent that had finally had enough, but here is the link to a follow up on the story – http://stlouisrealestatenews.com/real-estate-market/city-of-bellefontaine-neighbors-attacks-first-amendment-rights-again/

    The short story is, Bellefontaine Lost and an appellant court upheld the decision that their ordinance requiring a property inspection PRIOR to advertising your property for sale, or putting a sign in the yard, was unconstitutional. So, OK, they lost, end of story, right? Nope….they just simply passed a new ordinance that says you have to have your property inspected within 3 days of putting it on the market….Typical game I see played by places like Bellefontaine…

    As far as what you can do, you are doing it here to some extent by getting the word out – I personally think if more investors/property owners filed lawsuits against Bellefontaine over this issue, and them passing ordinances contrary to the courts ruling, I think eventually they may wake up, but I’m not sure. The article in STL Today yesterday should have been a wake up call – http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/article_18d05540-1a62-5c52-81b5-9f7278fa3b0d.html

    You may want to contact Tim Logan, the reporter that did the story on Riverview and see if you can get him interested in doing a story on Bellefontaines abuse of the rights of property owners as a follow up…

    Thanks again

  • ARee

    I am a resident of Bellefontaine Neighbors who is being harassed by the city to make improvements to my home. I am unemployed and don’t have the money to make the improvements that they are saying needs to be done. The first letter I received from Ted Stockard was to paint the back patio by 7/7/2011 I did this. Shortly afterward a lady in a red truck came by, got on my property, took pictures and another letter was issued that I needed to fix the soffit with metal soffit all around my roof so that squirrels could not get in, but when the squirrels were invading my home at the very beginning the city offered no assistance. The date to fix it is 8/8/2011. If you were to come by my home the outside of my home is well kept and the yard is clean, visually the house is in good shape. I know that there is a law out there somewhere that states that if it is suggested that it needs to be improved that the city needs to assist in the improvements. Please help!

  • Dennis Norman

    Hi ARee,
    I’m sorry to hear about your problems with Bellefontaine…I’m not a lawyer and do not know about a law existing like the one you mentioned, you may want to check with city hall to see if they have any grant programs available. HUD has a page on its website for resources in Missouri for home repairs, I looked it over and I’m not sure there is anything there that would help but here is the link to the page – You may want to contact the mayor about your situation, his name is Robert Doerr and he can be reached at 867-0076 or email at rdoerr@cityofbn.com. You may also want to get in touch with your alderman and let him/her know about your situation, or even show up at the next board of alderman meeting and share your story with them- I don’t know which ward you are in, but here is a link to a map so you can determine which ward you are in and then will know who your aldermen are – Finally, once you know which ward you are in, here are links to contact info for the alderman in those wards:
    Ward 1
    Ward 2
    Ward 3
    Ward 4
    I hope this helps,
    God Bless,

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