I bought my first home, only to become a victim of predatory remodeling.
This is the story of how I got tricked by malicious criminals into purchasing a home that was riddled with code violations and faulty, unsafe conditions. The house flippers were not licensed contractors, and no building permits were pulled. There was no paper trail, and no way for my house inspector to detect the multitude of problems that were cleverly hidden behind beautifully finished drywall, concrete, and woodwork.
Less than 24 hours after closing, my next door neighbor's giant oak tree uproots and falls onto my property, puncturing the garage roof. Luckily, my day-old homeowner's insurance covered the tree removal and house repair.
Carpenters arrive and temporarily patch up my roof with a blue tarp.
I move into my new house with the help of friends and family.
I hire a contractor to install a bathroom fan that is ducted through the roof to replace one that was incorrectly blowing moisture into the attic. ($460.32)
I discover that none of my cable outlets are working and call my provider for service. ($64.25) The technician discovers that none of the outlets are hooked up to the household service except for one that is so badly damaged that it barely works.
I also discover that one of my cupboard doors is not attached and it comes off its hinges when opened.
And the hookup hoses for my laundry machine are connected backwards. (Hot water connected to cold input and vice versa.)
While these are minor infractions, they help paint a bigger picture of the major problems that are about to be discovered.
I discovered that the tile around the downstairs bathtub had been improperly cut, leaving a gap for water to get inside the wall behind the shower controls escutcheon plate. The trim kit will have to be removed, the faulty tile carefully taken out, and a new one cut to take its place.
I also learn that the master bedroom walk-in closet, rec room closet, and laundry room dipwire shelves are not attached to studs. Instead, they are attached loosely to the drywall with flimsy plastic anchors.
I discover a large puddle of water on the laundry room floor that is leaking through the ceiling. The upstairs bathroom is directly overhead. A plumber is called in to diagnose the problem.
He discovers that the water is coming from the upstairs shower control manifold which is badly leaking inside the walls.
He also discovers that the framing behind the walls is badly burnt from a soldering blow torch.
The plumber suspects that the house has several other plumbing problems, and I agree to let him cut some small inspection holes in the drywall. He discovers that the downstairs toilet, sink, tub, shower, and laundry tub are all plumbed without a vent stack.
He also discovers illegal electrical wiring , and six additional water leaks inside the walls.
The downstairs corner shower has a shower head that only aims water to spray out the shower door.
The shower drain was illegally junctioned into the wrong size and type of pipe.
The laundry drain was illegally reduced from a 2” pipe down to 1 ½” pipe.
The furnace chimney duct was not insulated and illegally positioned less than 6” away from the flammable joists.
One of the drain pipe Y-unions is installed backwards! What's more, the main PVC drain pipe is illegally cemented into a sewer cleanout access.
The upstairs bathtub drain uses an illegal T-union into the rest of the drain stack.
The downstairs tub drain illegally runs underneath the tub itself, angled towards the toilet.
The water damage from the upstairs bathroom leaks has caused the drywall of the laundry room ceiling and walls to crack.
The kitchen garbage disposal had been illegally wired and was plumbed to the dishwasher with an illegal hose.
A completely illegal vent cap was used underneath the kitchen sink instead of a proper vent stack.
Most of the water lines were pieced together with alternating scraps of soft copper pipes (instead of rigid) and radiant floor heating hoses (instead of pex pipes). All soldered plumbing unions were done in place, badly burning the timbers next to them.
The upstairs bathroom faucet was missing parts for the drain lever , and the water pipes were never fastened to the timbers.
At this point, the plumber informs me that all of this work was likely done by the same person, illegally, without a permit, and that all of it is failing. Both of my bathrooms and kitchen become un-usable. My house had been flipped by somebody who cut an obscene amount of corners.
My realtor also visits the house to see the problems for himself. At the time of purchase, he and the sellers had coached me into waiving the disclosures notice (which means I bought the house “as is”). I would later learn that this is one of many tactics used by predatory remodelers.
My realtor suggests that I go into real estate arbitration through his agency. I'm informed that there are no lemon laws for houses and the sale cannot be reversed. I'm not sure what to do.
I contact a lawyer and begin researching my legal options. We decide to prepare for an approach that is not under the thumb of the real estate agency.
I did some online research and discovered some photos of the house dated as recently as October 1, 2012. The pictures showed that the house looked very different and had clearly undergone a major remodel before it was sold to me.
The kitchen and living room had been completely gutted and re-done with recycled cabinetry and fixtures. Major walls had been removed to make the house feel more open.
One of the photos showed a load-bearing support column in the basement which had been removed all together!
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