I discovered that the downstairs bathtub had improperly cut tile, 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 mounted with flimsy plastic anchors that easily tear out of the drywall when weight is put on the shelves.
Additionally, a downstairs storage closet had handles installed on the wrong half of bi-fold doors.
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 venting pipes.
The downstairs corner shower has a fixed shower head that only aims water to spray out the shower door.
The shower drain was illegally connected into the wrong size and type of pipe, and has no P-trap.
He also discovers illegal electrical wiring , and six additional water leaks inside the walls.
The laundry drain was illegally reduced from a 2” pipe down to 1 ½” pipe.
One of the drain pipe Y-unions is installed backwards! What’s more, the PVC drain pipe is illegally cemented into a sewer clean-out access.
The upstairs bathtub drain uses an illegal T-union into the rest of the drain system.
The water damage from the upstairs bathroom leaks has caused the drywall of the laundry room ceiling and walls to crack.
The plumber discovered more problems beneath the kitchen sink.
The garbage disposal switch was illegally wired into a metal box without a plastic bushing.
An air admittance valve (illegal in Minnesota) was used underneath the kitchen sink instead of a proper vent stack.
The garbage disposal was plumbed to the dishwasher with an illegal hose.
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 framing next to them.
The upstairs bathroom faucet was missing parts for the drain lever.
The water pipes were never fastened to the house framing.
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. I’m informed that there are no lemon laws for houses and the sale cannot be reversed. I’m not sure what to do.
At the time of purchase, my realtor had coached me into waiving the disclosures notice (which means I bought the house “as is”). I was reluctant to sign it, but it was my first time working with a realtor, and he was referred by a family member. My realtor said that waiving the disclosures is very common, and not a big deal. He also warned me that if I didn’t sign, I’d lose the house to another buyer.
Now that my house has erupted with problems just days after closing, I am confronting my realtor about the situation and my options. He suggests that I go into real estate arbitration through his agency.
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. Later, this would turn out to be bad advice.
I did some online research and discovered some photos of the house on Zillow.com 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 front entry closet had been removed.
The galley kitchen had been completely gutted and re-done with recycled cabinetry and low-end fixtures. The adjacent dining room had a closet removed.
One of the major kitchen walls had been removed.
In the basement, the flipper removed a load-bearing support column to make the room look bigger!
At this point it had become clear that our house had been purchased by a flipper on October 16, 2012 for $84,900. Over the next 4 months, the flipper secretly remodeled the house without building permits or licensed contractors until February 19, 2013. During the remodel, Major walls had been removed to make the house feel more open. He then re-sold the property to us at a 200% markup.
Additionally, the description of the property states that the house has a new roof, windows, and floors among other things. I can’t help but wonder if these have problems, too.
The flipper had put our lives and property in serious danger by removing load-bearing structures. This reckless behavior could have killed me and my family, so I called the police. The officer was sympathetic to our situation, but did not believe it was serious enough to warrant police intervention. He suggests I pursue a civil lawsuit.
I’m visited by Jeff Edvenson, a veteran general contractor who was referred to me by a co-worker. Jeff tours my home, inspects the damage, and is in awe at the level of effort that the flippers put into hiding their illegal and dangerous construction work. Jeff estimates that repairs will cost anywhere from $70K-$100K, and states that “Whoever did this work needs to go to prison.” Jeff also says that the condition of my house is worse than anything you’d see on the popular remodeling TV show Holmes on Homes, and that it was clear that the illegal remodeling work was done intentionally, in a predatory fashion, to flip the house onto an unsuspecting buyer and tricking them into ownership of the multitude of code violations.
It has become clear that it’s too difficult for contractors to estimate repairs to my house when the known problems are still covered by drywall and tile. I hire a general contractor to do some basic demolition work to reveal the problems. ($1,600)
Liz Collin of WCCO reports my story on the evening news. After realizing that I had been taken advantage of, I compared the situation to the “predatory lending” craze of the early 2000s, coining the term “predatory remodeling”.