Sears Sued Over Lack Of Building Permits

Stanley Kurtzman in July paid Sears, Roebuck & Co. $475.99 to install a hot water heater in his Waterford home, including $30 for a building permit.

Workers installed the hot water heater, but no building permit was ever issued, he claims in a class action lawsuit filed this week in Oakland Circuit Court.

Bloomfield Hills attorney Steve Lehto is representing Kurtzman and 10 others who also paid Sears for a building permit that was never issued. He’s looking for more to be part of a class-action lawsuit against the retailer.

“Technically, most cities require a building permit to install a hot water heater, but most don’t enforce it,” Lehto said. “Either Sears or whoever Sears hires to do the work hasn’t been taking out the permits.”

That creates a dangerous situation, Said Esther Shapiro, Detroit’s Consumer Affairs director. “An improperly placed water heater can blow up,” she said.

Building permits protect consumers by making the contractor responsible for redoing improper work at their expense, Shapiro said.

Home owners can learn whether a permit was taken out for work at their home by phoning their city’s building inspector, Lehto said. Sears has not responded to the suit

and could not be reached for comment. The suit seeks an injunction against Sears to stop charging the $30 for building permits that are never issued. Victims could receive up to $250 compensation under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, Lehto said.

Lehto wants to hear from consumers who purchased a hot water heater from Sears in the last six years and paid for a building permit. Lehto can be reached at 1-810-334-2266 or fax 1810-338-8188, or write Steve Lehto, Attorney At Law, 1263 W. Square Lake Rd., Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48302. © Detroit Free Press, October 21, 1994.