Home owner and home builder at odds over condition of new West Jordan house

By Don Hudson , Robin Saville

Published 04/25 2014 08:46PM

Updated 04/25 2014 10:26PM

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) A Utah man says a giant homebuilding company sold him a giant problem. And he says anyone planning on buying a new home can learn some valuable lessons from his experience and avoid what is happening to him.

When you drive through Bart Saxey's West Jordan neighborhood you notice some signs. And they all say the same thing "Do not buy a Richmond Home." The homeowners here are not happy with their homebuilder. Bart Saxey is one of the homeowners and says "We just want our house fixed. We paid a lot of money to have Richmond build our home." But he says that is not happening. "Basically told me they were not going to fix the things that were wrong."

Saxey has been battling with Richmond American Homes for 3 years. And has a list of 14 issues. Here are 6 of those problems.
1. "My floor separated. Tile rose up an inch and a half higher than the other one."
2. "My house will not get cooler than 78 degrees.
3. The vent about the oven is not properly vented. "All the grease comes up on cabinets and it is a fire hazard."
4. The majority of railings on the stairs have come apart.
5. "We paid to have them do the rock there. (Front of home) And now we don't have the rock there."
6. And where he got rock - he says some of it is already falling apart.

Saxey says the problems began during construction and he says Richmond did not address them as promised. "You can see here in the schedule of home care visits they promised to come between two and three weeks. Did they come? No, they didn't. Four months. Did they come? No. The first time they came was a year and six months."

However, Richmond homes told ABC 4 Utah in an email that it has addressed the majority of the problems.
"Richmond American agreed to all but the last two requests..."
"Richmond was more than willing to work with Mr. Saxey to resolve all but 2 of his request..."
"As far as the company is aware, there is only one request that has not been agreed to, as the company is waiting for additional information from Mr. Saxey to support his request."
And Richmond homes says Saxey is too demanding. RAH says says he has shown "...a pattern of pressuring behavior..." And the company says it got a "court stipulated order restraining Mr. Saxey" from its employees and homes.

Saxey has filed some orders of his own. First, he went to the City of West Jordan. Inspectors came out and found four code violations: 1. Improper microwave fan ventilation. 2. The "Flashing under the rock veneer is installed improperly..." 3."The attic ventilation is not adequate..." 4. The center of the house is "missing a floor I-joist..." ABC 4 Utah obtained the letter showing that the City of West Jordan told Richmond to fix the violations. Richmond American Homes says it "addressed" the issues on "April 4, 2014." But so far, the the code violations have not been fixed.

Saxey is frustrated and exhausted. "It's a nightmare. It's a nightmare." But Saxey isn't taking no for an answer. Now he has taken his issues to the state of Utah as well. "I filed a complaint with the division of consumer protection with the state of Utah. They've been very helpful." While Consumer Protection would not talk to us about any ongoing investigation, Saxey showed us emails with the Consumer Protection and says the state is investigating and delivered a subpoena to Richmond Homes for all documents related to the case.

"They've had the city of West Jordan issue a repair order. Nothing. Consumer protection has spoken to them. Nothing. You guys have contacted them. Nothing. It will probably be a court order with the arbitrator before they do anything to fix our house." While Saxey's willingness to continue to fight is unique - his problems with Richmond American Homes are not.

And even though the issues are not being address at Saxey's home - Richmond says it is possible their builders were stretched during the construction time. In an email to ABC 4 Utah, Poli Peters, a Richmond American Homes spokesman said "Richmond does acknowledge that during a portion of 2012 and the first part of 2013, there was an unusually high level of construction activity in that community (and throughout much of the valley) which stretched the homebuilding construction trades beyond their recession reduced capacity for a period of time."

As ABC 4 Utah was talking to Saxey about his issues we learned about another family who told a similar story. Carolyn and Val Ugolini say they were excited about building a dream home with Richmond a few years ago in Riverton. But when they paid extra to have a ramp from driveway to help with Carolyn's physical limitations. They say they got stairs instead. Carolyn says "No integrity. Twist things around so they come out on top." They asked that the house be centered on the property to provide room on each side for wheel chair access. But they say the property line was about 5 feet from the house. And with the window wells there wasn't room for a wheelchair. They say the City of Riverton told them there was not enough space between the house and the property line to even allow them to move in. Val says the City of Riverton official told him "If you don't get eight feet we cant give you occupancy. And if you don't get occupancy, even if you buy the house you cannot live in the house."

The Ugolini's asked for things to be fixed. Val says Richmond's response was shocking. "They took the keys from us and said the house was not ours anymore, but they kept our money. They kept it for a full year."
Eventually the Ugolini's took legal action - got out of their contract and they say received a settlement. Regarding the Ugolini's case, Richmond American Home spokesman Poli Peters says "the company regrets any missteps which may have occurred during the purchase process...A settlement agreement was reached by both parties."

The most important take away from this - read the fine print. If you have problems with new construction Utah law says the builder is obligated to follow the terms of the written warranty. But if your contract with the builder says you can't take legal action and you have to go to arbitration. What can you really do? The builder can just delay and ignore you. Or the builder can fix one or two things and delay repairing and ignore If you can't file a lawsuit that leaves you will little recourse.

And Saxey says he learned something else in all of this - your loan provider may help or hurt your case. He says many conventional loans don't have any language or addendums that give you added protection.
But he says VA and FHA financed homes require the builder to "correct construction deficiencies in workmanship and materials..." and to "repair or restore the reliable function of appliances and equipment damaged during construction..."

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