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Realtors, Fire Department at odds over roof law

With the August deadline for homeowners to change out their wood shake roofs looming, local Realtors concerned about a distressed housing market are expected to push the Burbank City Council on Tuesday to postpone the requirement.

Fears that the requirement would be too much of burden for struggling homeowners are in conflict with recommendations from fire officials, who say wood shake roofs dangerous fire hazards.

An ordinance passed in 1992 says wood shake roofs and roof-overs — roofs with fire-resistant materials covering wood shake — must be replaced by August 2012.

After listening to concerns from Realtors and fire officials in October, the City Council asked the two groups to get together and present options for a compromise.


Burbank Assn. of Realtors President Christopher Rizzotti said in a written statement prepared for the council meeting that the group supports an eight-year extension for roof-overs and a two-year extension for exposed wood roofs.

Fire officials would support a five-year extension for roof-overs but feel roofs covered solely by wood shingles should be changed by August.

Brian Paul, chief executive of the Burbank Assn. of Realtors, said in an email that among his concerns was the Burbank Fire Department seeking homeowner compliance with the ordinance by the Aug. 14 deadline, while at the same time neighboring Los Angeles would grandfather in the exact same roofs as they are not in a fire risk zone.

“Life-long residents who are undergoing real hardship are now facing a huge re-roofing expense with no means to pay for it,” Paul said.


Homes with wood roofs are not selling as well as those with fire-resistant roofs, as buyers turn away from the possibility of an additional post-purchase expense, he said.

The city continued to issue permits for roof-overs until 2000, eight years after the ordinance was passed, Paul said. Once people were told about the ordinance, only 16 more roofs were covered and not replaced, he said.

If homeowners weren’t being told for the first eight years, shouldn’t the clock start then? Paul asked.

Fire Chief Ray Krakowski said in an interview this week that Realtors’ concerns were valid and that he understood that real estate sales are suffering.

Krakowski and fire personnel reviewed about 3,000 permits that involved any changes to a home’s roof in the last 20 years, and fire prevention staff conducted site visits around the city.

Roofs were examined to see if they had been roofed-over, which would be a violation as of August, Krakowski said.

“We used that as a sampling, we had to start somewhere,” Krakowski said. “The significant majority changed their roofs. The scope of the problem is much smaller than we anticipated.”

About 120 homes have exposed wood roofs and about 300 homes have roof-overs that should be changed, Krakowski said.


But Krakowski cautioned that those figures could change because there are homes with illegal roof-overs, and he cautioned about getting into a numbers game.

“That’s the problem with why the numbers don’t always jibe,” he said. “If there are about 420 affected homes, there may be another 400 that are illegal.”

The City Attorney’s office said a homeowner would receive up to three notices before being found to be not in compliance.

And at the time of a sale or when a home is refinanced, the roof would have to be changed, Krakowski said.

While it is possible for a tax lien to be issued on a property for not being in compliance, Krakowski said it was not likely.

“The city of Burbank does not want to get into the roofing business and we’re not anticipating a need for a lien,” he said.