Just about everyone loves the architecture to be found in the various historic neighborhoods of New Orleans. But there are a few things you need to know before buying a home in any of them.
What is the HDLC?
The New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission regulates, preserves, and protects historic districts and landmarks in the city with the exception of those areas covered by the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission and the Vieux Carre Commission.
The HDLC was formed in 1976 in response to the loss of significant number of historic properties in the 1960s. City Council order permits the HDLC to regulate the exteriors of all buildings that are visible from the public right-of-way. Their purview includes design review of repairs, alterations, and new construction, as well as the power to cite property owners for demolition by neglect, but does not include paint color.
Where are the historic districts in New Orleans?
The HDLC covers 14 districts that encompass approximately 14,000 properties in Algiers Point, Bywater, Canal Street, Esplanade Ridge, Faubourg Marigny, Garden District, Holy Cross, Irish Channel, Lafayette Square, Lower Garden District, Picayune Place, St. Charles Avenue, Treme and the Warehouse District.
Does the seller have to disclose if the property is located in a historic district?
Yes, they do. The Louisiana Residential Property Disclosure that sellers provide to potential buyers includes this information. What the disclosure doesn’t do, however, is ask if there are any outstanding violations associated with the property.
How do I find out if there are unresolved HDLC violations?
The city has a website that allows anyone to research the status of HDLC violations. Simply type an address into the search bar at the top of the page and you’ll be able to review any current or past issues with the property. This is also a great way to find out if permits were pulled for renovations to a property.
Why do I care if there are outstanding violations?
HDLC violations don’t result in a lien on the property, so they don’t show up in a title search, but they follow the property from owner to owner. If you buy a home with outstanding violations, you’ll be in for a rude surprise when you can’t get utilities after the sale. All existing violations must be closed before you’ll be able to do anything with the property. Going after a seller for fraud is always an option, but in the meantime you will be stuck with an uninhabitable property – probably not how you planned it.
2 warnings about appraisers and insurance companies
The appraiser valuing your house and the insurance company you choose to insure it don’t really care about historic districts.
Warning 1: if the appraiser requires changes to the property such as the repair of rotted wood, be prepared for a delay in closing while the owner applies to the HDLC for approval and a permit to have the work done before closing.
Warning 2: most insurance companies don’t inspect a property until after you’ve taken possession. It’s not unusual for them to issue a 30 day notice of cancellation unless you make certain changes (ex: adding handrails to a porch). Get in touch with the HDLC immediately and get them involved in approving any work necessary.
Need some help navigating the purchase of your New Orleans home? Give us a call at 504-327-5303 and we’ll be happy to guide you through the process.