Michigan: Almont Township building inspector under fire
There are claims by Almont Township homeowners that their building inspector dropped the ball. The three homeowners are facing thousands of dollars in repairs to their homes...They all had different builders, but blame the same building inspector, who they claim allowed them to move into homes that are clearly not livable...over 5,000 gallons a day," Pat Smylie said. "We have nowhere to put this water -- no drains, no ditches." On top of that the Smylies learned the basement windows were put in wrong.The builder never installed flashing -- metal that blocks water from coming in, and the Smylies later learned the house is sitting on a stream and should have never been built.
Almont Township building inspector under fire
Three homeowners claim livelihoods jeopardized
By Taryn Asher
ALMONT TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (11/29/06)--There are claims by Almont Township homeowners that their building inspector dropped the ball. The three homeowners are facing thousands of dollars in repairs to their homes.
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They all had different builders, but blame the same building inspector, who they claim allowed them to move into homes that are clearly not livable.
It is Almont Township Fire Chief Paul Wilcox's job is to protect your home and family. But it's his other job as the Almont Township building inspector that some say has put their livelihoods in jeopardy.
"It's supposed to be happy times for us. It just destroyed us," said Pat Smylie, who five years ago with his wife Judy Smylie bought a home on Hollow Corners Road to spend their golden years.
But three days after they moved in, water started infiltrating their home. They had to put in a double sump pump to push the water out and they say it runs continuously.
"That's over 5,000 gallons a day," Pat Smylie said. "We have nowhere to put this water -- no drains, no ditches."
On top of that the Smylies learned the basement windows were put in wrong.
The builder never installed flashing -- metal that blocks water from coming in, and the Smylies later learned the house is sitting on a stream and should have never been built.
"If we thought this home wasn't built to code, we wouldn't have bought it," Pat Smylie said.
They thought it was because Almont Township's building inspector approved it. There is a final occupancy certificate to prove it.
"We're like prisoners in the home," Pat Smylie said.
But the Smylies aren't alone in their frustration. Joe and Nancy Moskwa say they are living in a house that is literally sinking.
Nancy Moskwa heard her husband's heel go through the bathtub as he fell face down in the shower.
"When he turned to rinse himself the tub had buckled," she said. "He lost his balance and went down."
They claim the bathtub was put in wrong. It is now cracked down the middle. Joe Moskwa is now forced to walk with a cane.
But that's not all. The Moskwas claim the foundation is shifting, causing the ceiling to split.
The insulation was put in backwards, creating toxic mold and Nancy Moskwa claims cracks in the basement walls leak water, dirt and radon -- a poisonous gas proven to cause health problems.
"I blame the township for allowing shoddy inspections," she said.
"If they would have done the inspections the right way (and) made the builder fix the code violations, we wouldn't be going through this mess as well as other homeowners."
Homeowners like Kathy Bock, who is also facing thousands of dollars in repairs and a list of violations never spotted by Wilcox.
"I was very upset," she said. "That inspector didn't find all these things to begin with. Even if it was a novice builder, the inspector should have caught all these things back then."
Now the three homeowners are calling on the state, which has launched an investigation into Wilcox and the Almont Township Building Department.
State inspectors discovered numerous code violations at each of the three homes -- violations never spotted by Wilcox.
And through an audit, a state construction code commission discovered several problems, and found that Wilcox overlooked several violations.
It has also been revealed that the township doesn't conduct frequent inspections during construction and in some cases issued certificates of occupancy before final inspections were approved.
"We wished if there were deficiencies at the time our inspector would have caught it," said Almont Township Supervisor Gary Groesbeck.
Because of the state's investigation, the township has forced Wilcox to resign effective Dec. 1, but surprisingly he will still remain the building inspector for Almont Village and Imlay Township.
He will also still be the Almont Township fire chief.
"He regrets the situation and would like to set the record straight with homeowners and set the record straight with the administration and board," Groesbeck said.
But so far he hasn't, so we decided to track him down. We found him at the Almont Township Hall, but before we knew it Wilcox slipped out the back door and ran to his truck.
Wilcox never answered us or the three homeowners who say he refuses to take responsibility for passing their inspections when the homes were far from being up to code.
All three homeowners say they are trapped. Estimates show they owe thousands of dollars to repair their dream homes that they couldn't sell even if they tried.
"Someday if we don't get any kind of help ... we don't have the money to fix all of this," Nancy Moskwa said. "We won't have a house. Our house won't be standing."
Almont Village and Imlay Township have no plans right now to let Wilcox go as their building inspector.
As for the homeowners, they will have to sue Almont Township to collect any insurance money. The state says Wilcox and his building department are still under investigation.