The case of an unsafe house in Warsaw’s Pheasant Ridge subdivision grew even more confusing with a second code enforcement hearing held Monday afternoon, but the city’s request to have the home demolished was not yet granted.
Kyle Babcock is the owner of record on the house at 330 Ringneck Trail that was built in 2005 and says litigation over the house started 8 years ago. Hearing officer Lawrence Clifford heard the case of code violations against the property last month (see related), ordering “significant progress” be made by today’s meeting or he would consider an order to demolish the house.
Babcock was not at last month’s meeting due to the city having an incorrect mailing address for him meaning he never received notice of the hearing. However, after the account of the hearing was published, Babcock responded saying, “I look forward to my day in court” and he accused the attorney representing lender Indy MAC, Amanda Porter of Doyle & Friedmeyer law firm, of making false statements about the property and Babcock.
In today’s hearing, Porter was not present, but attorney Fredrick Lawrence of Nelson & Frankenberger law offices, was. Lawrence told hearing officer Lawrence Clifford, “I represent the investor,” and added, “there’s a little bit of a convoluted story to this property. There’s a servicer involved of One West who is prosecuting the foreclosure, but the investor is actually the one taking the action to get the property into compliance.”
Lawrence noted he directly represents Ocwen Financial, which services for the investor. However, Lawrence could not say who the investor in the property is. Babcock noted he checked court filings in the morning before the hearing and found nothing filed regarding a substitution of plaintiff. “There’s nothing legally filed,” he said, regarding the civil case in the matter.
Babcock said problems with the house he had built in 2005 began almost immediately and lawsuits were filed by the builder, Ousley Construction, against Indy MAC and Babcock for nonpayment. In a counterclaim, however, Babcock alleged water and mold issues in the home from the beginning rendered it uninhabitable.
To prove his case, Babcock provided an inspection report completed by Calvin Bolt Inspections and Testing in November 2009. The inspection was ordered by Indy MAC and resulted in significant findings indicating construction flaws contributed to water and mold issues.
First, the inspection found water problems resulting from improper grading and window well installations and because the house was built below the water table level. Additionally, that inspection found “two somewhat significant cracks” in the exterior foundation and recommended a professional foundation contractor or engineer further evaluate the degree of water problems such cracks may be causing.
Last month, Porter said Indy MAC’s intent was to get the home in a state good enough to be put on the market for sale. “The bank is looking to move the house, flaws and all, to a new owner,” she said.
In the last month, city building commissioner Todd Slabaugh said work has been done on the house, including the removal of drywall in the basement, the replacement of electrical receptacles and switches, and workers did pump out the estimated 3 feet of water from the basement and are still in the process of utilizing fans and a dehumidifier to try to eliminate moisture. “The framing needs to be 19 percent or less moisture and I’m not sure that will ever happen,” added Slabaugh.
“You can continue to replace and repair, but it won’t stop water from coming in,” added Babcock. “The only way it won’t flood is to have someone living there full time who can manage it with buckets.”
In his report, Calvin Bolt said, “This is tied for the worst case of mold I have ever seen in my career. The entire basement needs to be gutted … the work needs to start ASAP before it gets colder and the mold starts growing in the main level and attic.”
He further noted, “The mold covered all of the basement walls, was growing on the floor joists and the underside of the flooring for the main level and had migrated up the stairwell about half way.” Bolt found mold spores in the main level of the home, but noted no visible mold in 2009 at which time he wrote, “The house is not safe to enter without a professional respirator.”
Slabaugh’s initial estimate of expenses just to bring the house into compliance was at $25,000 to $28,000 and approximately $110,000 to make all of the necessary repairs. The cost to demolish the property would be $8,500. At today’s hearing Slabaugh said the work that has been completed has brought the house up to about 50 percent compliance, but additional costs to complete repairs would still be at about $40,000.
Lawrence asked for time to take the findings of today’s hearing to his client, Ocwen Financial, and provide them with opportunities to investigate the foundational problems. Although Lawrence said he would not be available for the next code enforcement hearing on Sept. 15, he would send another attorney.
Clifford concluded, “I’m going to get this resolved at least with the code enforcement” noting he would no longer hesitate to issue an order of demolition. The hearing was set to continue at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15.
Babcock thanked Clifford and Slabaugh for getting something moving on the house, saying he is prepared to end the litigation once and for all and further noted, “I’m an open book willing to negotiate.” Babcock said he sank his life savings into building his dream house, but the contractor’s poor quality has cost him everything and he seeks to be financially compensated.