Man's House Burns, St. Louis City Cites Him for Melted Siding

home madonna 1.jpg
Three weeks after a fire destroyed this home (left), the city cited the homeowner for broken windows and "defective" siding.
Okay, so the following story fits the purposes of a blog for a couple of reasons.

1. It's not earth-shattering news, though I suspect it will fire up a few people who've been in similar situations.
2. I know the main person involved, Mark Madonna. He's a co-worker of mine at the RFT, so, yes, there's some admitted bias here on my take on his story. Still, I think it's interesting enough for a re-telling here.

On July 12, Madonna's house in the Holly Hills neighborhood of south St. Louis caught fire when a mysterious blaze engulfed the home immediately to south of his and spread to the homes of the adjoining neighbors. Madonna was just getting ready for bed when he heard the crackle of flames and then noticed an orange glow outside the window. He escaped with his dog, Bella. Madonna's cat, Mike, wasn't as lucky. It died from smoke inhalation.

Since that night, Madonna's insurance company has paid to put him up in a hotel and now an apartment as it processes his claim. Madonna's house has no electricity and reeks of smoke. It is -- for all intents and purposes -- uninhabitable, though not officially condemned. Once the insurance check clears, Madonna plans to rehab the house and has already talked to a general contractor about getting it done as quickly as possible. 

Madonna was a bit surprised then when he received a letter this week from the city's Department of Public Safety citing him for broken windows, defective siding and damaged fascia resulting from the fire.

madonna home on left.jpg
Madonna's home (on left) and the house where the blaze originated.
The letter encouraged Madonna to fix the citations within two months or be fined $25 per violation and possibly get referred to the court for prosecution. If he wanted to discuss the issue, he could call the building inspector or appeal the citations for a fee of $150.

The letter was also the first correspondence Madonna has had with City Hall since the fire, though he's been in frequent contact with the police department's bomb and arson squad. Its investigators believe someone -- not Madonna -- started the fire at the neighbor's home.  

To Madonna, the letter from the building inspector was insensitive at best and insulting at worst. But that's not the way City Hall sees it. It says it's doing Madonna a favor.

"The city did the right thing with documenting the damage and sending a letter, and we hope that the homeowner will soon be able to repair his property," says Mayor Francis Slay's spokeswoman, Kara Bowlin, in an email to Daily RFT.

Bowlin adds that many insurance companies require such a letter before they're willing to dole out money to the homeowner. Moreover, the city routinely sends out such a letter to people like Madonna whose homes have been damaged through not fault of their own.

That's right. If an arsonist destroys your house or your home is torn asunder from tornado (or other natural disaster) expect a prompt letter from the city tsk-tsking you for the unsightly condition of your domicile.

But, says Bowlin, the city is willing work with victims like Madonna. That's why it gave him 60 days to make the repairs and is more than willing to give him an extension if need be.

Madonna says he plans to request such an extension, as the rebuilding of his home probably won't be finished until January. Still he wonders if the city couldn't have used a little more tact when issuing the letter warning him of the violations.

"It's not like the violations they cited were a result of poor maintenance," says Madonna. "The windows broke and the siding melted as a result of a fire that was beyond my control. Now this letter is just one more headache I have to deal with."

Keep up on all the latest St. Louis regional news and gossip by following @chadgarrison on Twitter and Daily RFT on Facebook.

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15 comments
Sandra Ludwig
Sandra Ludwig

You've got to be kidding me. Are you saying that he has to pay for damages because his house went up in flames? That's unbelievable. We can only hope that it will get settled accordingly. Besides, it's still the law, believe it or not.

johnnparker
johnnparker

Some time bad siding can cause to fire. So it's better to use of siding with high quality. i suggest to folks for using solid insulated siding to save from melt problem. vinyl siding

Vic
Vic

@998e1a1f6d10d5ed3ec6469c76b3b4de:disqus :  it all comes down to money. For the city to go after absentee landlords would involve a big outlay of cash. They'd have to plow thruownership agreements, rent agreements, etc. With Mark, the city sees an easy opportunity to make some $$$.While some in city gov ( and I do know some) are decent and honorable people, many are not. And I count the mayor as one who is not simply because again and again he is failing to provide leadership. Where is his voice saying this is bullish*t? And telling the rest of these people to back off

PFX
PFX

If they want someone to pick on, head over to Winona Ave. at Kingshighway.  The City could fund a ton of programs by making the absentee landlords get their buildings and yards in compliance all over the City.  Why are they focusing on a homeowner whose damage occurred as a result of a fire, when there are so many other properties whose damage is a result of neglect?

Shelf4you2001
Shelf4you2001

That bullshit. Those bastards,  Vote them all out of office. What happens to all the torando people with all there damages? Look how long its taking them. And look at the airport, There just getting started of the roof, and the windows could take 3-6 months. Those mother fockers!!!! Hell remember the parking lot by the ball park? oh yeah it still nothing. It looked like crap for a long time.

Broasis
Broasis

I have no issue with the city providing the letter, but why on earth would he have to PAY to appeal the fees in the citation? Seems to me like that's the part of this that guarantees the city gets it's hands on some green. Not very nice.

Daniel Stout
Daniel Stout

First of all, why did someone put quotes around the word city? That's weird. Secondly, the article makes it clear that this is really standard and sometimes even necessary to get insurance to pay up. What's the big deal here? The title certainly got people's attention, but did people actually read the article? More crap journalism. More crap comments.

Kgood010208
Kgood010208

After reading the article, it seems reasonable.  I think the headline is a tad sensational.  I've never had to deal with a fire damaged home, file an insurance claim, but unless I just have no sense of the claim process two months to fix it plus extensions sounds like ample time.  I'm sure that could get extended indefinitely or removed if the house is really damaged, and like he stated the insurance company may needed.

jh
jh

Our "City" is a disgrace, which is really a shame because there are many that are trying to do so much good; however, the politicians who are in control simply want to stand in the way of progress.  This is nothing but a money grab type situation in which the city tries to take advantage of quite frequently.  As an example, the city traffic police love to take advantage of Cardinal baseball games (between 6-7) and were out in large numbers during The Race for the Cure event this year.  I understand cities are looking to increase revenue these days, but this is not the way to go about it. 

Vic
Vic

I've got no words for how sad I am for our city. We do NOTHING to encourage our residents. The concept 'some insurance companies need such a letter' is horse cr*p. They could craft a much gentler letter with no time constraints. I love STL and will never leave, but sometimes our government just has its head in the sand. Mayor Slay, please apologize for this. Mark has lost his home, he's lost his pet and the best your city government can come up with is this letter? Please…this is sick and stupid and insensitive in the extreme. 

Shelley Powers
Shelley Powers

Glad your friend and his dog are OK, but sorry about Mike.

Shelf4you2001
Shelf4you2001

I've never had to deal with a fire damaged home, file an insurance claim, but unless I just have no sense of the claim  You nailed it right there, They are slow and dont want to pay 1/2 of the time. Just look at the airport? how long has it been and it still has 3-6 months

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