5 On Your Side

Wayne County Couple's Dream House Turns Into Nightmare

Posted April 5, 2006

— A recent report from the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) highlights what it calls "deficiencies" in the system that keep homeowners from protecting themselves. PIRG said contracts often take away the buyer's right to sue. They also claim government agencies do not do enough to protect consumers. One Wayne County couple knows about these problems first-hand.

Report: Who Pays For Faulty Construction?

Lisa and Paul Daniels thought they did everything right when they hired their builder. He was licensed, recommended, and president of the Wayne County Builders' Association, but in the end, none of that mattered.

From the outside, Lisa and Paul Daniels' three-bedroom brick home looks like any other new home, except for the "No Trespassing" sign on the front door.

"The estimates to repair are greater than the cost of building the home," said Paul Daniel.

The home has been empty for 6½ years. The first sign of trouble was a crooked vinyl floor. Paul Daniel soon found out the builder Jeff G. Moore did not measure correctly. In fact, opposite walls of the same room are not the same lengths.

The magnitude of the problem was not clear until the Daniels hired an engineer to assess it. He noted 31 code violations, many of which he said affect "structural integrity."

"The front of the house is 7 inches longer than the back," Lisa said.

The Daniels questioned Moore, who blamed the problem on human error.

The engineer said because of that mistake, the house sits unevenly on the concrete foundation, so it does not have enough support.

"I never expected for him to come out from under the foundation and say it's going to be cheaper to tear this whole house down," Lisa said.

"It kind of leaves you with a sick feeling," Paul said.

Especially because despite five inspections, Wayne County inspector Joe Nassef didn't notice the problems until after the engineer's report. Nassef would only tell Five On Your Side he never did a final inspection. But no one could verify that because when the controversy arose, the inspection reports disappeared.

County Manager Lee Smith did not return messages from Five On Your Side. Moore will not talk with Five On Your Side either. The Daniels believe they are protecting each other, and nobody is protecting them or other homebuyers from serious construction problems.

"They're hidden. They're behind the walls, above the ceilings, below the floors," Linda said. "How many people go look through a house and crawl under the house?"

With no one accepting responsibility, the Daniels sued. The county settled for more than $94,000. Last month, a judge ordered Jeff Moore to pay them $696,000. Also, Moore's license is revoked.

As for Nassef, he was promoted to Chief Building Inspector, then retired last year although he still inspects for the county part-time.

Experts tell Five On Your Side these situations are not rare. If you have a house built, it might help to hire your own inspector to check things throughout the process.

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