Bizarre Vanished House Case Can Head to Trial

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A property company cannot dismiss a complaint filed by a man who discovered that his newly purchased house had been demolished, a federal judge ruled in a decision that says, “‘A man’s house is his castle,’ even if others do not perceive it as such.”

     Rafat Azzam sued the bank that sold him the property, the bank’s property-management company and the demolition company that allegedly razed the house.
     “In this unusual case, plaintiff Rafat Azzam alleges that one day he returned to his house to find that his house and its contents had vanished entirely,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote.
     Azzam said he bought a two-story home in northeast D.C. from CitiMortgage and lived at another residence while he waited on renovation permits. He says he moved up to $20,000 worth of personal property into the house.
     But when he stopped by the property to check on it last October, he said he found that it had vanished. A local mail carrier told him that a work crew, allegedly Rightway Development, had torn down the house.
     “According to the amended complaint, CitiMortgage engaged Safeguard Properties, LLC to provide property management services for CitiMortgage in the District of Columbia. Safeguard, in turn, engaged Rightway Development, Inc. to provide construction, demolition, and development services,” Howell wrote.
     Safeguard moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Azzam had failed to allege sufficient facts directly tying the property company to the destruction of his house. The judge disagreed, ruling that Azzam alleges that Safeguard instructed Rightway to tear down the house.
     “Based on Azzam’s factual allegations, Safeguard could be held liable for the destruction of Azzam’s house … depending on the facts revealed in discovery,” Howell wrote.
     Azzam’s claims of trespass, conversion, negligence and infliction of emotional distress will now proceed to trial in which Azzam can also seek punitive damages.

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