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.
Managing my housing crisis is cutting too much into my job responsibilities. My dad, who is retired, offers to volunteer his time to deal with contractors while I’m at my day job.
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)
I began documenting all of our house problems on a spreadsheet, and labeling them with color-coded, corresponding Post-It Notes throughout the house.
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”.
Jeff Edvenson, the general contractor who first looked at my house, lets me know that he is passing on the project as there is just too much risk associated with it. He won’t even give me a written estimate.
This same day, my friend Timmy Iverson starts a “Go Fund Me” campaign to help raise some initial funds to cover repairs. It raises over $2000 in a matter of hours.
I call the Columbia Heights City Building Official and ask him to come see the damage done to my house. Much like the general contractors who had looked at it before him, the inspector is absolutely shocked at the level of malice that went into remodeling. He states, “I wish we had caught these guys in the act. They’d be in jail right now.” I ask the inspector what my options are. After a very long thought he reluctantly replies “You’re stuck.” Furthermore, he orders me to make the structural repairs and quickly as he fears that a large snow pack on the roof could cause the structure to buckle. Failure to fix the house means that he’ll have to “red tag” it, condemning the house, and forcing my eviction.
A major wind and rainstorm sweeps through the Twin Cities, causing flooding, downed trees, power outages, and even opens up a huge sinkhole. As my roof has still not been repaired since the tree fell on it, this storm aggravates the damage, pulling more siding and insulation from my garage.
50% of my square footage that comprises the lower level of my house, including the master bedroom, become unusable during repairs. I reluctantly move all of my furniture and belongings to the upper level, and set up my bed in a spare bedroom. I begin hauling my dirty linens to my parents’ house and use their laundry machines.