House doesn’t exist. - Posted by Dave
Posted by Dave on July 31, 2003 at 14:55:02:
This article is from the Sacramento Bee. Apparently permits were never pulled to build this house. Is that something the title company is responsible for?
A dream home turns disastrous
A family is forced to vacate their house after finding there are no records of it.
By Kim Minugh – Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Thursday, July 31, 2003
Tim and Barbara Waldron bought their 2,400-square-foot ranch-style home in the rolling hills of Placerville three years ago thinking they had seized an opportunity to make a solid investment and raise their children in a country setting.
They soon found themselves in what they describe as a real estate nightmare that forced them from their idyllic home and could end up costing them more than $500,000.
Prompted by concerns over an old septic tank in the Waldrons’ back yard in 2001, El Dorado County officials could find no building permits on record for the house. In effect, according to county records, the house did not exist.
County officials deemed the Waldron home, at 5640 Rocky Ridge Road, unsafe for living in 2001, and the family had to move into a trailer in front of the property.
Bill Carey, an El Dorado County building official, said there is no requirement that the county inspect a house being put on the market. Usually sellers or buyers hire private inspectors to check the properties, he said.
On Jan. 10, 2002, the Waldrons filed a civil lawsuit in El Dorado County Superior Court against those who they thought had been looking out for their interests. The suit seeks damages for breach of written contract, negligence – personal injury, breach of statutory duty, misrepresentation, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.
Their first civil hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7.
The defendants named in the suit are: former property owners Roger and Bonnie Holbrook; Diane Higuet and Butch Arrietta and their real estate firm, ERA Realty Center; Art Quillen of Quillen Enterprises Inc., a construction firm; Charles T. Sweet III of Sweet Septic Systems Inc.; and Michael Wallace of Prospector Termite Control.
Roger Holbrook said that he was “not going to comment on the issue because it is still in litigation.” ERA representatives, Quillen, Sweet and Wallace did not return phone calls Wednesday.
The Waldrons, who had moved from Yuba City after purchasing the house, say they manufacture aircraft parts for the federal government in a barn on the property.
They say their problems began shortly after they purchased the home for $254,000 in August 2000. An old septic tank in their back yard began to smell, the soil sank and raw sewage began to pool in the ditch.
The Waldrons said they called county officials, who advised them that the septic tank was unsanitary and a “public health hazard” that needed to be eliminated, according to court documents. Furthermore, county officials told them that no record of the septic tank existed.
The only record on file of a structure at 5640 Rocky Ridge Road was for a barn next to the home, county documents show.
“It’s not here,” said Barbara Waldron. “There’s no permits, there’s nothing.”
The county posted a notice of occupancy violation at the home in 2001, forcing the Waldrons to buy a trailer and park it on their property. The family – Tim, 45; Barbara, 32; Manny, 12; and Mikayla, 5 – is still living out of the trailer.
“The quality of life for our kids – it’s just not right,” said Tim Waldron.
After the county issued the notice, the Waldrons had the property inspected by C. Scott-Whitten Inc., a Sacramento-based builder and developer. Problems detected included a septic system in disrepair, mold infestation, structural modifications that violated building codes and lacked permits, an electrical system in disrepair and leaking gas pipes, documents show.
In real estate transfer disclosure statements attached to the lawsuit, the former owners disclosed no problems with the house, signing a document stating the “home appears in great shape.” They also claimed that the kitchen remodel and family room and laundry room additions had been done by a licensed contractor.
The lawsuit alleges, however, that the defects identified by C. Scott-Whitten Inc. “were known to Holbrook” and that “Holbrook personally caused several of the defects to occur through defective construction” not by licensed contractors, but by non-contracted laborers including Roger Holbrook.
It also alleges that ERA, Quillen, Sweet and Wallace failed to perform their duties and breached duty to the Waldrons by not properly informing of potential problems with the property.
Today, the Waldrons say they find themselves mired in a legal battle that is draining their energy and their pocketbook. They say mitigation and arbitration efforts have failed or stalled, and their civil hearing has been delayed twice. The total bill for the conflict, meanwhile, continues to grow.
Now that their home is no longer considered to have value, the property – the barn and the land – is now worth just $85,000, county assessment records show. And the Waldrons say that bringing the house up to code will cost more than $300,000.
They expect to pay more than $200,000 in legal fees and out-of-pocket expenses such as the trailer and mortgage payments on a home that, in the county’s eyes, doesn’t exist.
If they had known what was to come, they say they never would have bought the home.
“If we had known, we would have walked away,” said Barbara Waldron. “I just want a home to live in.”