86-year-old woman charged with $25K demolition bill after house burns down

SAN ANTONIO — An 86-year-old Texas woman is facing nearly $25,000 in demolition fees after her home was destroyed in a Memorial Day weekend fire, her family said.

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Cruz Flores, of San Antonio, lost the home where she has lived for more than 35 years to a fire on May 28, KSAT-TV reported.

Flores was able to scramble out of her house, but everything inside the residence was destroyed, according to KENS-TV.

That was only the beginning of Flores’ woes this summer.

On June 13, the structure was leveled by a city-hired contractor, KSAT reported.

“Two weeks after, she gets a call from a neighbor that it seemed as if they were going to demolish the property because her car, which was parked in the carport, had already been pulled out,” Flores’ granddaughter, Rachel Cordova, told KENS.

Cordova said that family members were working on a deal to sell the property “as-is” and use the proceeds to move Flores into an apartment, KSAT reported.

Cordova said that her family was not contacted about the demolition, adding that family members found an “emergency demolition notice” attached to the fence of the residence, KENS reported.

“Demolition is the last resort,” Amin Tohmaz, the deputy director of San Antonio’s Development Services Department, told the television station. “It’s a tough call to make, but if it’s needed for safety reasons, we have to make that call. We do a title search and get any information we can about any owner or lien owner. We do attempt to contact them; we do mail them letters and post a door hanger at the location.”

“It’s a difficult situation because time is of the essence, due to the safety issue, the hazard,” Michael Shannon, director of the department, told KSAT.

If the San Antonio Fire Department decides a structure is unsafe, officials release it to development services, which does its own assessment and has 96 hours to demolish it, KENS reported, citing San Antonio city bylaws.

The city passes the cost to the homeowner, which was $24,727.56, according to KSAT.

An insurance company would typically cover the costs, but since Flores was uninsured, the widow is facing a five-figure bill, KENS reported. Flores said she was unable to afford home improvements required to keep her residence insured, according to KSAT.

The lien will prevent the sale of the property, Shannon told KSAT.

“Unfortunately there is an expense that the city will attempt to recoup at some point,” Shannon told the television station.

Flores’ family has started a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the expense of the demolition.

“They say there’s a lien on the property until that gets paid,” Cordova told KENS. “She doesn’t have any money to get into an apartment, let alone $25,000.”

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