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Defending Homeowners From Renovation Extortion

Almost two years ago, Andre and Erika Cherry bought their first home together. The home was a modest two-bedroom fixer-upper built in 1916. After a century of wear and tear, the home showed its age and needed a top-to-bottom renovation—but the Cherrys were up for the challenge. They had always dreamed of owning a home together, and this was a home within their budget.

Unfortunately, the Cherrys’ dream quickly turned into a nightmare when the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) informed them that they needed to pay a whopping $11,000 fee in order to get a building permit to do the renovation. This fee was part of Seattle’s wildly inaccurately named “Mandatory Housing Affordability Law” (MHA).

According to the city, the Cherrys’ home renovation was creating a “new structure” because they were changing the exterior of their home “too much.” For more than a year, the Cherrys tried to adjust their plans and plead their case with the city to show that MHA did not apply to their home renovation and that the city’s demands made no sense.

Eventually, the Cherrys found the Institute for Justice (IJ). IJ wrote a letter to the city demanding it give the Cherrys their permit without the additional MHA fees and requirements. That letter explained, as the Cherrys had, that MHA did not apply to their home renovation and that the city’s demands made no sense. Moreover, IJ noted, SDCI’s $11,000 demand violated the Cherrys’ constitutional rights.

Three weeks later, the city relented and issued the permit.

The Cherrys are not alone in fighting for their rights. Will you help the Institute for Justice fight for the Cherrys’ rights and others like them by making a tax-deductible contribution today?

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