A Twin Cities man outraged by a house-flipper's shoddy work is retaliating against what he calls "predatory remodeling" by seeking new laws to protect unsuspecting buyers like himself.
According to a televised report by Minneapolis station WCCO, Frost Simula paid $174,000 for his home and now may have to spend $100,000 by the first snowfall in order to stay in it. Among the problems: A load-bearing wall and pillar were removed, plumbing doesn't work in the bathrooms, and outlets for cable and electricity were put in the walls but don't have any wiring behind them.
Simula said he's seeking legal help but doesn't expect much from that because he signed a disclosure waiver limiting his legal options, WCCO said. In addition, a home inspector had signed off on the home, according to the report.
So Simula is fighting back with publicity, personal lobbying, and creation of a Facebook page called Residential Remodeling Regulatory Reform, devoted "to educate the public and influence legal change about hidden dangers in homebuying."
“It’s my goal to go to every level of government, starting from my city, to the county, to the state, to make sure that we set laws up to make sure the consumer is protected,” Simula told WCCO. “When people hear my story they’ll ask, ‘Why isn’t there a lemon law for houses?'"
Simula's campaign comes just a few weeks before a new law takes effect in Minnesota on Aug. 1 that's designed to crack down on a related problem: selling homes via a "contract for deed." Under this arrangement, the seller finances the sale and collects monthly payments, much like a landlord. An investigative report in January by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune found that many of the 1,330 deals reviewed by the newspaper carried high interest rates and large balloon payments but often failed to reveal code violations and safety hazards.
The new law, passed by Minnesota's state legislature in May, requires sellers of contracts for deed" to provide a notice to buyers pointing out that these contracts have drawbacks and suggesting that prospective buyers get an appraisal and inspection before finalizing their contract.
At press time, Simula had yet to respond to REMODELING requests for comment.
--Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. Follow him at @craiglwebb