PAULDING COUNTY, Ohio (WPTA21)–A fresh coat of paint, some major spring cleaning – when you’re about the list your home for sale you can expect to spend some serious time on housework.
What you likely don’t expect is a call from your realtor saying you can’t sell your home because county roads run through your property – roads that clearly don’t exist.
But that’s exactly what happened to a Paulding couple who called our Digging Deeper team asking for help.
As we uncovered, getting “roadblocked” is more common than you might think.
“I just can’t handle this big place anymore,” said Todd Runyan while sitting at his kitchen table back in August.
Last year, 64-year-old Runyan was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“I felt my world was dropping out,” recalled Todd’s wife Susan. “Honestly.”
“I lost my dad to cancer,” said Susan. “I lost my mom at a young age. I just finally got the man I love, and to hear the cancer… scared me so bad.”
Todd can’t work anymore. Without a leg and confined to a wheelchair, he’s afraid he couldn’t make it from a factory line to a restroom fast enough.
So that leaves Social Security, and as Todd will tell you, that isn’t much.
“A little over a thousand dollars a month doesn’t go very far,” says Todd. “And it’s a mind-boggling thing to just try to figure out, ‘OK how am I going to get all these bills covered and stay ahead on ‘em?’ Because sometimes we can’t. We get behind and then we gotta play catch up, and when we play catch up, we don’t eat.”
So this past spring, the Runyans listed their home for sale. But their realtor soon called them with a problem.
“It was a shock,” says Todd. “A total shock, I had no idea.”
According to Paulding County, three roads run through their property.
Alexis: “The County told you there’s roads going through your property?”
Susan: “Right through the pond is Jackson Street. It goes through our garage supposedly down there. Putnam Street goes right through there. And we have an alley that goes right through the middle part of our barn.”
Alexis: “So we’re out here, obviously there’s no roads?”
Susan: “Haven’t had too much traffic!”
For a better look, we took the ABC21 Drone up into the sky for a bird’s eye view to compare what the county says should be there to well, what’s actually there.
We overlayed the county plat map of the Runyan property over the video we shot with our drone two months ago. As you can see, the roads likely existed at one point, but they clearly don’t anymore.
Alexis: “Have you ever heard of this before?”
Mayor Janet Stroup: “No!” [audible laughter] I’ve not heard of anything like this before.”
According to the mayor of Melrose, those roads haven’t existed for a while now.
“I’ve been here in the Village of Melrose since ’69 and that was all grass then,” said Stroup. “So if there was a street, it was 50 years ago. I just assumed it was closed. I mean most of the council members assumed it was closed.”
But as far as the county was concerned – those roads were open.
“We don’t know where to turn anymore,” says an exasperated Susan.
“It’s frustrating!” exclaims Todd. “And it does bother me. How can you tell me this when this building has been here for years?!”
“It’s like a nightmare and I wish someone would wake me up from it,” says Susan.
“It doesn’t happen often,” says Warren Straley of Straley Real Estate & Auctioneers – a broker in Paulding and Van Wert counties.
“But it’s a little more common than some people might think if you’re not actually in the home buying and selling business,” says Straley. “When the house is purchased and you go through the lending process, the lender most often they will send out a surveyor to do a mortgage survey.”
That surveyor checks to make sure your yard fence isn’t on your neighbor’s lawn, or that your garage isn’t backing into an alley.
“And then this would also reveal of course if there is roads platted or alleys that are on your property that shouldn’t be,” adds Straley.
If there are roads that aren’t reflected on your land, a bank likely won’t approve a mortgage on your house.
And the solution isn’t a walk in the park.
First, your local governing body must pass an ordinance officially acknowledging the roads are no longer in use. Then that ordinance must be sent to the county recorder, who then passes it along to the county engineer, who maintains records on property plat maps.
We visited the county engineer and pulled the original plat map of the Village of Melrose – penned by hand in 1855.
Finally, with the ordinance from the recorder in hand, the county engineer can update the plat map. A process that – literally – roadblocked the Runyans plan to sell their home for five months.
“Just thank you for helping us,” said Susan.
Already two months late on their mortgage, the Runyans just put their home back up for sale.
So is there anything you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to you?
The short answer is yes, but it’s probably not worth it.
You can call a surveyor out to look at your property and make sure it lines us with the county engineer. But the average cost for that ranges from $400-600. At that price, you’re likely better off playing the odds and waiting until after you list your house for sale.
Producer Daniel Beals, Internet Director Kayla Crandall, and Creative Services Producer Chris Brown all contributed special details to this report.