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Calallen woman sees unexpected 16K demolition bill after saving neighbor from tragic house fire

Some of the money the family got from the sale was used to help Kim's dad bury his wife and find a new place to live.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Theresa Schneider said she was just trying to help out her deceased friend's family, but what she didn't know is that gesture could end up cost her $16,000.

Schneider lives in Calallen, and until November 2022, she was neighbors with Elizabeth Kay Haire and her family. 

"I still can see her walking across the street and talking to me when I go check the mail, so it really affects me," Schneider said.

Tragically, Haire's house caught fire, and Haire's husband, and daughter, Kim, were left picking up the pieces after losing not only their wife and mom, but their family home as well.

To add to their struggles, several days after the fire, Schneider said city of Corpus Christi officials notified the family that it would be demolishing the house and that they would need to pay the demolition costs.

"So now we're finding out the city is charging us 'x' amount, whatever amount of dollars for the demo cost of them tearing it down," Schneider said. 

Schneider bought the land from the Haires, who did not have homeowners insurance, for $11,000 after she said the Haire family was told it would cost $4,000-$6,000 to tear the house down.

"She was always our neighbor, she was always amazing," Kim said.

Some of the money the family got from the sale was used to help Kim's dad bury his wife and find a new place to live.

The day after the sale closed, Schneider said, the city told her it would be more than $16,000 to cover the cost of the demolition, and that a 10 percent penalty also could be tacked on as long as the bill was outstanding.

Schneider is now stuck with the unexpected bill for the land she purchased.

"We don't have it, and I know the Haires don't have it because who has this unexpected expense of burying their loved one?" she said. "They shouldn't have had to worry about a house and a demo when they had to worry about burying their mom."

3NEWS reached out to the city about the demolition bill and received the following statement that reads: 

'In 2021, the City adopted an emergency demolition ordinance. When a structure is a clear and imminent danger due to a fire, accident, or other sudden act, the City demolishes the structure after notifying the owner. The structures are demolished to eliminate their attractive nuisance to children, juveniles, and adults alike. There are federal programs to assist with the cost of demolition; however, such programs have specific qualifiers before funds are provided.'

Schneider said if the city won't drop the bill, she may be forced to sell the property.

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