Unauthorized masonry and the building jungle

  • We live in a nice, refurbished ancient building in Palermo Soho and the past weekends we have seen our neighbors coming in and out with sands, wood logs, cement bags... We thought they were doing some renovation, but yesterday we saw the bricks, logs, and cement are on the roof of the house right next to our unit. We thought they were redoing the roof...

    Today, the two lines of brick became a wall... We have been calling 147 to file anonymous claims and they said an inspector from the City will come for an inspection... but when?

    By the time the inspector come, they will have finished their work.

    There is no work sign, and City regulation doesn't allow to raise one own's house in the so called 'corazón de manzana', i.e. the inner part of the block.

    This new floor will make easy for anybody to walk from that roof to our balcony, where we have a simple glass door throughout the length. This means we will need rejas (bars) on our balcony, and we will be effectively caged in our own home. We are beyond angry, and feel helpless. If our neighbors decided to do this regardless of work permit and City regulation, they won't be touched by a fine or by a piece of paper telling them to stop and take down the illegal floor. :cursing:

    We no longer feel safe in the house, and even the thought of having to spend a few thousands for a 4 meters per 3 cage doesn't make us happy. I think this will impact negatively our property.

    We called the building administration who came promptly, but they want - of course - abide to the law, file a claim with the Municipalidad and play by the rule... with people who don't care about it.

    If anybody has some suggestion, we are open to listen to any idea... and I mean ANY.

  • This is completely outrageous, serafina ! I agree with Splinter. You must be the one caller the inspector must deal with, in order to keep his sanity. Can one of you simply park all day tomorrow in the inspector's office, armed with photographs?

    Your neighbors are wasting no time, so any bureaucratic procrastination puts time on their side. I think that Carlos, our resident architect, can help you find answers.

  • Hi, serafina - help is at hand. I sent your link to Carlos, who has sent this information to me, to pass along to you, since he doesn’t have your email address and can’t access the forum at this time:

    “I see what is going on. Someone is building an addition without authorization, which seems to be mandatory as it seems not to be simply painting the facade.

    “Serafina needs to go to the "Comuna 14", as she lives en Palermo borough. The main office is Address: Beruti 3325, C1425 BBP, Buenos Aires.

    “The "comuna" is a subdivision of the city, a district with its own office which attends all problems. First there were not such subdividision and we need to go to only one central office, but now is better.

    “She will need to describe what is the mess, better with photos, and put her claim here. Perhaps it is better that thic claim will be done by her husband, who knows more about the argentine typical bureucratic behaviour.

    “Probably the Municipal Government will send an Inspector and close the work done, and fines could be applied.”

    I join Carlos in hoping that this is your answer. Perhaps the rains interrupted your neighbors’ unauthorized construction?

  • Update: we called repeatedly 147. We filed the denuncia online on the website of the City of Buenos Aires, too, and so did our neighbors from the same building. Of course, except the day it rained, the construction continued and now arrived to our balcony.

    Our neighbors are pissed: the guy downstairs says he has no more light -- we are on two floors, but he just has an 'entrepiso' and only one big window, which is being 'trapped' by this unauthorized building.

    We called the building administration. They took pictures. So we did.

    Yesterday, my husband went to the police near our place and they said they cannot do anything and to go to the Comuna 14, so he did. Anyway, even filing with them, it means they have 15 working days to come out for an inspection. By then, they will be furnishing the house.

  • I hope that Comuna 14 doesn’t wait the full 15 working days (translated: 3 wks - why don’t they just say so?).

    Theoretically, if no action is taken before the room is completed, would these neighbors be required to demolish their construction?

  • I hope that Comuna 14 doesn’t wait the full 15 working days (translated: 3 wks - why don’t they just say so?).

    Theoretically, if no action is taken before the room is completed, would these neighbors be required to demolish their construction?

    I don't know if they would get a fine or be required to demolish it.

    But everybody agrees that once it is up and finished, there is no turning back.

    One idea we had was to hire people to take the wall down. Paper wins over stone only in 'rock paper scissors'.

  • I don't know if they would get a fine or be required to demolish it.

    But everybody agrees that once it is up and finished, there is no turning back.

    One idea we had was to hire people to take the wall down. Paper wins over stone only in 'rock paper scissors'.

    A fine would punish the offenders but not help the neighbors suffering from the transgression. How would that be fair?

    And although I applaud the idea of hiring guerilla workers who, perhaps by night, could undo each day’s building progress, wouldn’t that action make you liable to prosecution for destroying their building materials?

  • Doesn't the concept of planning permission exist here?

    Yes, absolutely. But as usual, everybody does 'lo que se les canta' and regulations are hardly enforced.

    City regulations prohibit from rising buildings in the core of the block (corazón de manzana). But since they are in the middle of the block, nobody from the outside can see what is being built. There are many (many!) raised PHs in our block.

    In front of us, two houses away, they recently made a bathroom over a weekend and now they have put a parrilla upstairs, on the roof. I wouldn't call it a terrace since there is no protection around the roof, and for now they just made with brick and cement the grill and the storage for the logs with doors.

    City regulations also mandate that on the calles you can at most have two-storey houses, yet there is plenty of buildings taller than that. You just need to oil the correct wheels and have the right friends in the right places.

    Another example: on the ground floor of our building there is a store for rent. It was always rented as a fibrofacil store but the old man retired at the end of last year so it was back on the rental market on Jan 2019. By March, a mail chain among neighbors informed that they were going to rent it as a beer place... one of the many on the block. They are working to open another beer place on the opposite side of the same block, by the way, and on the next block where there are already two. WTF!?

    Anyway, 'our' store was never thought to be a food place, there is no ventilation, no guests facilities, and the water usage is shared among all neighbors, which we pay based on the squared meters of each unit.

    Of course, we the neighbors were very upset when the news broke. The unit's owner was not a least bit concerned. She basically wrote us she has connections with the City and that nowhere in the building regulation it is explicitly stated the nature of business that the commercial unit can accomodate. She said they will be installing a water meter and to stop fussing.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us have protested with the building administration and we are faced with two options: pay a lawyer to file a claim against the commercial unit owner and hope sometimes a judge will rule in our favor, or suck it up. The result will likely will be the same anyway: there will be soon a beer place downstairs.

  • With all the competing new beer joints in Palermo and especially the cluster of them on your block, there’s a good chance this one will be out of business before you can blink.

  • Just another update. We tried every possible avenue: 147 by phone (Ciudad de BA), Comuna 14 (Comuna de Palermo) in Person, We tried Defensa Civil by phone, we (owners of my building) also filed a suit against the neighbour in an attempt to stop the works.

    Five owners of my building filed an anonymous claim with 147 either online or by phone.

    Defensa Civil: they claimed they came out twice, but there is another street with the same name as ours and they couldn't located the building with the number (altura) we provided. Are you kiddin'?

    My husband then provided also the name of the crossing roads (just to be safe...) and gave his numbers in case they needed further directions (!). Called again and they said that they came, buzzed the neighbors but nobody was in. So they left.

    My husband managed to convince the inspector to come again, ring OUR buzzer, come upstairs and observe from atop the works. The Inspector came on June 20 (a holiday!!!!). He said he was an architect that worked for the City as a second job, so he covers the holidays shifts (!!!).

    He took pictures, filled in a form with details and left.

    Also our administration called in an engineer as subject matter expert to file another claim with another office.

    I asked:

    #1 - Can't you shut it down since there is no work authorization? Maybe but it is another office doing those. You should file a suit for 'interdición de obra' (we already did - nothing happened).

    #2 - can't you shut it down since there is no work plan saying the works are safely done? What if it collapses? Irrelevant and not concerning your building. If it comes down it falls on itself and won't drag your wall along.

    #3 - Can't you shut it down since the workers are not wearing any personal protection equipment? There is no signage of risks for workers. Not your concern.

    So, over the days various inspectors from various offices came, filled in papers, promised to notify the neighbour and left. The neighbours continued with his works (you can't beat the 'Do not answer the buzzer' strategy!). A wall became a wall with a roof. I could jump on it if I wanted.

    I asked more or less the same questions to 4-5 inspectors/SMEs and the answers were all: we will do the possible, but at most he will get a fine. And he can also not pay it since there is no consequence (another Dante's ring of paperwork resulting in no concrete action).

    We are now asking for cost estimates for an electric fence and the first one is about 400 USD. Or we could put a barbed wire fence (cheaper, but a carpet is enough to overcome it).

  • serafina .....

    It's an impossible task to win.....

    On my street they are right now building a 2 floor "church"....it's in princip a club for asociale pricks....but if u call it church u can do what u want!!! This is in a total 100% residencial área.....no permits for that stuff!!!!

    Of course they do not have permits or whatsoever.

    All neighbors are highly annoyed since they behave badly, block all pads, parking places, play loud music and and and.

    There is a vigelent denuncia by the municipality since long time.....the second, signed by some 30 neighbors.

    The front neighbor is the one that gets the full load of music.....he have already told he will solve it himself ....

    And I'm pretty sure he will.....:evil:

    When the roof is on, I have a strange feeling it's gonna be gone quick hahahaha

    Welcome to Argentina....

  • We did investigate the 'take matters into our own hands' approach, but while all neighbours supported us by word, nobody wanted to put their face to do it. They all had better things to do, and we are the unit affected the most.

    I have to say that money-wise, that option bore similar cost as the legal way (that being: paying a lawyer to file a suit against the neighbour and putting an electrical barbed wire fence). What really put me off was the fear of payback. I live here and I can't be afraid to go in and out of my place.

  • Yep, that's always the drawback....

    Here the neighbors are continues pinching the tires of the bobos that occupy the parking by the houses, (imagine, at 50 meter away there is a free plot with say space for 20-30 cars, but the morrons don't even consider that option).

    Here I think it would b in opposite.....the "church" people would have a hard time, not the hole street that is living here.....


  • That said, the neighbor knows my husband is one of the claimers, because after calling various numbers for days, nothing had happened and the works were going on 'as planned' (I hope you can appreciate the joke, as there is no plan :cursing:), and the neighbor decided to hammer our wall on a national holiday.

    When we get timing estimates for inspectors to show up, we count the 'working days', whereas our neighbor works on calendar days, regardless.

    This time my husband called the ordinary police to complain about the noise and surprisingly they showed up a few minutes later. They came upstairs in our place to observe the workers from atop, and then rang the buzzer of our neighbor.

    It must have been the words 'Policia de la Ciudad' over the intercom, but the neighbor finally opened the door and the policemen (both taller than me and my husband, real policemen!) did quite an impression.

    In that occasion, the neighbor intercepted my husband and identified him as the author or the 'denuncia' and the police phone call. They actually chatted in a civil fashion and the neighbor even invited him into his house (basically, short of a shack in serious need of a makeover). In a very civil way, they interchanged ideas:

    the neighbor said he was doing works to make a deposit upstairs, so that he could renovate downstairs and rent it on Airbnb while he travels abroad (9 months per year, he is a university teacher, he said...). In his view, this is a was to gentrify the neighbor and to avoid having to rent to villeros (who else rents shacks?!). So, he thinks he is doing us a favor. He even offered mate to my husband!

    He also added that he consulted a lawyer and the lawyer guaranteed him that regardless of the legitimacy of his works, once he builds up something, there is no way they can force to take it down.

    My husband says that we the neighbors are pissed because it made things worse for us: the guy on the ground floor basically has a cell instead of an outdoor patio, the guy on the first floor has no longer light coming in, and we are exposed to burglary like a house on the ground floor thanks to his home improvement project.

    In the following days he must have received further notices (about 3-4 weeks in), so he got pissed and started to angry-ring our buzzer.

    My husband was home only once and he was in a hurry, so he basically told the neighbor that he should live with the consequences of his actions. The neighbor said that his works were permitted because once upon a time the separating wall (medianera) was 15 meters. We don't know if this is true.

    My husband says 'then, you should sleep well at night since you are not at fault'. And the neighbor added he would sue us for our illegal windows facing on the inside of the block. WTF?! :cursing:

    We inquired with the building administration (consorcio) to know if the engineer had produced a report about his inspection. Of course, he hadn't. But the administrator called him over the phone, and after some chit-chat nothing came out of it. Our SME said that the regulation is so fragmented that it is impossible to tell beforehand if something is permitted or not, because there are different regulations affecting blocks or group of blocks, and there is no city-wide or neighborhood-wide regulations. Basically, if something is allowed in the next block, it might not be allowed on ours.

    Of course, knowing the regulation on the property in question takes time... and time, Argentines have plenty of!

  • Surely the people on the ground and first floors must be angrier about this than anyone else. Are thy doing anything, or just letting you do all the work of trying to stop this guy?

    The top floor apartment directly across the plaza from us added another floor above theirs, more than doubling their room and removing the privacy of the people on the (formerly) top floor next to them. We happened to know the former owner of the unfortunate apartment next door, that no longer has the panoramic view they'd had. He said there was no permit and there were no consequences.