When the owner of a historic property donates an easement to the Trust for Architectural Easements, s/he agrees – for him/herself and all future owners of the property – to comply with annual monitoring inspections of the property. As stated in Recital J, Section 6a of the Trust’s standard easement agreement,
“Grantee [the Trust], in order to ensure the effective enforcement of this Easement, shall have, and Grantor [property owner] hereby grants it, the following rights and remedies:
At reasonable times and upon reasonable notice, the right to enter upon and inspect the Protected Façades and any improvements thereon. Grantor acknowledges that in order for Grantee to obtain proper access to inspect the Protected Façades, Grantee may require access through the interior of the Building.”
The Trust conducts monitoring inspections once every year, requiring that owners of easement-encumbered properties provide a Trust staff member with access to the protected facades, as defined in the easement. The protected facades will either be all exterior walls and roofs of the building, or only those portions of the walls and roofs visible from the public right-of-way. The monitoring inspections ensure that the Trust performs its duties in making sure the property remains in good repair and that no changes have been made to the property without the Trust’s approval.
The Trust schedules monitoring visits in the early spring to avoid snow and foliage in bloom, which often obscure portions of the building. Three to four weeks prior to the dates during which Trust inspectors will be in the owner’s community, the Trust will send a letter requesting a monitoring appointment. The letter notifies the owner of possible inspection dates and asks that s/he contact the Trust to schedule an appointment, as necessary. Appointments are generally scheduled for one hour windows on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Appointments are not necessary if the easement only restricts changes to portions of the property visible from a public right-of-way.
While the Trust will contact the owner to schedule an appointment if the owner does not respond to the initial letter, the scheduling of these appointments is ultimately the owner’s responsibility. It is highly recommended that the owner contact the Trust after receiving the letter, at his/her earliest convenience. This will provide the owner with the widest range of possible appointment times.
When making an appointment, owners should be sure to mention any specific instructions for the inspector, such as the specific door to knock at, a request for a reminder call, or where to find a gate to access a rear yard. The Trust sends different inspectors to each property every year, so the owner should not assume that the inspector has been to the property before and thus would know how to ask for or to obtain access to the protected facades.
During the monitoring appointment, the inspector will take photographs of all protected facades and shorthand notes regarding any areas of concern, including deferred maintenance and ongoing work. When the Trust inspector is present at the property, s/he will be glad to discuss any concerns the owner has regarding stewardship of the property.
Upon returning to the Washington office from the monitoring trips, the Trust inspectors compare the new photographs to the most recent baseline for the property. After comparing the photographs of the property and the inspection notes, the Trust will contact the property owner by phone or email if the monitoring inspection shows any ongoing work or concerning unauthorized changes to the building. Ongoing work may necessitate a stop-work order if an owner fails to respond to telephone and email inquiries. Any unauthorized change to the property will necessitate a retroactive review that may result in the Trust’s objection to the work, which could require removal and restoration at the owner’s expense.
The Trust sends a follow-up letter with monitoring results to every property owner during the late summer or early fall. This letter informs the owner when the inspection took place and what changes or maintenance issues the inspector found, if any. If the property has been properly maintained and no unauthorized changes have taken place, the property owner will receive a letter documenting that information. If, however, the Trust finds that the property is in need of maintenance, the letter will alert the owner and ask him/her to address the concerns by a certain date. We highly recommend that you retain these letters for your records.
Once the owner receives the results letter, the Trust’s annual monitoring cycle ends for that year, unless any maintenance or change request work remains. Monitoring of the properties allows the Trust and property owners to work together to provide effective stewardship of these historic properties.