Family ordered to demolish home slated for repairs

CREATED Dec. 4, 2013

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RACINE – A couple's effort to rehabilitate an old family home was met with a demolition order instead.

The house, located along North Memorial Drive, was built in 1900. Portia and Rene Del Toro bought the house from Rene’s family.

The old shell of a home needed major work. The Del Toro started to tear down walls as part of the project.

That's when the problems started.

"The plaster has lead paint on it or in it, and stirring up that dust and breathing it in. Our two year old ended up with lead poisoning," Portia explained.

Health officials posted a sign, banning the family from going inside. Just last week, city building inspectors ordered the couple to demolish the home.

"We knew there were issues going into it, but we planned on taking care of it once the house was actually ours," Rene Del Toro explained.

Despite the problems with lead exposure, building inspectors tell us the condition of the outside of the home prompted the order.

Chief building inspector Kenneth Plaski made the decision after he discovered the repairs needed for the home's exterior would cost twice what the home is worth.

“Once a 'raze order' is issued, I don't really have the authority to go back on that. It really has to be stopped with a restraining order," Plaski explained.

The Del Toro family can’t afford an attorney. They have until December 26th to appeal the decision in court.

The couple is staying at a relative’s house. They’re set to use Federal help to remove the lead, but it may be too little, too late.

"I was ready to take what I already call home and make it a home for my family," Rene said.