Opposing inspectors leave home owners in the cold

David Yates Nov. 7, 2007, 9:40am

Ken Lewis

Hoping to avoid a full-blown lawsuit, a Hardin County couple and the company who built their new home agreed to allow a neutral inspector to examine the house for defects.

But when the neutral inspector turned out to be hand picked by the plaintiffs' attorney, the non-litigious approach went out the window.

Through attorney Kenneth Lewis, John Matula and Linda Riley filed suit against Camellia Homes Inc. in the Jefferson County District Court on Nov. 6.

According to the suit, in October 2005, the couple entered into a contract for the construction of a home by Camellia on Rice Drive in Lumberton.

"The home was eventually essentially completed but defendants insisted plaintiffs close the sale and occupy the home before numerous building defects were remedied," the suit said. "Plaintiffs made numerous efforts to get Camellia to resolve these problems during 2006 and 2007.

"Plaintiffs even hired an independent inspector to inspect the home and identify construction defects and presented this report to Camellia. Despite repeated efforts by plaintiffs and repeated promises by defendant, no remedial repairs were made, so plaintiffs hired the undersigned attorney, Kenneth W. Lewis, in March 2007."

A copy of the independent inspector's report attached to the lawsuit listed several defects, including improperly laid down roof shingles and gaps between the roof and trim.

Threatening legal action, Lewis sent Camellia a letter and the inspection report.

The plaintiffs claim that in response to the letter, Camellia contacted Lewis and agreed to a mutually agreeable inspector and to make all the repairs the inspector recommended.

But the contractor then rejected the inspectors that were recommended by the plaintiffs' attorney, and instead planned to send two inspectors of its own choosing to inspect the home and perform any warranty work that was needed.

"However, by June 8, 2007, defendant still had not arranged to have plaintiffs' home inspected, causing plaintiffs' attorney to send yet another letter to defendant asking that a state inspection be obtained. This letter resulted in a June 12, 2007, inspection by the two inspectors selected by defendants," the petition states.

During this inspection, the homeowners provided a list of the problems identified by their own independent inspector and the suit claims Camellia's inspectors "agreed with virtually every one of the problems identified by the independent inspector and added some additional ones."

But the plaintiffs say they never received a single report from the inspectors and no repairs have been made to the house.

The couple and their attorney are accusing Camellia of fraud and are suing for actual and exemplary damages, plus mental anguish and attorney fees.

Lewis is an attorney with the Bush Lewis law firm.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District.

Case No. A180-719

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