Will the NH Licensing Law Prevent This?

Dream home turns into nightmare: Water damage, mold force young Wakefield family out of new house



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	     		 		  		  		        WAKEFIELD — When Chad and Tasha Bennett moved into their home at 111 Crabapple Drive on Mother's Day weekend, they thought they were entering their dream home.

Instead, it has turned into a nightmare.

Town building inspector and health officer Arthur Capello condemned the house — a 12-year-old two-story contemporary — on Thursday, deeming it unsafe to live in due to a number of issues. Now, they own a $130,000 home with at least $80,000 worth of damage they cannot afford to fix.

The problems began three weeks after moving in. A few days of heavy rain caused “buckets of water” to leak into the basement through the foundation. While searching for the root of the problem, the Bennetts pulled off the outer vinyl siding, uncovering water damage and mold. In the basement, behind two layers of insulation and a layer of plastic, they found rotting sideboards and more mold.

An $800 test revealed four kinds of mold growing on the walls outside, from the ground up to the roof and throughout the basement, Ms. Bennett said.

“Every day things seem to be getting worse and worse,” said Capello, who was working on a notice to vacate Thursday afternoon. In addition to mold and water damage, there are structural issues and fire hazard concerns that lead him to believe the house is now unlivable. He called the footing, or foundation base, “questionable.” To fix the problem, the foundation has to be dug up, outside sheeting needs to be replaced and the moldy basement has to be cleaned and reinspected before the house is livable again, he said.

The Bennetts said the footing was made of wood, rather than the usual concrete reinforced with steel.

“How can a house be built like this?” asked Bennett, adding the house started to lean forward and sink into the ground because of the poor foundation work. “This house has to be lifted up take all the blocks out. It’s more cost-effective to tear it down.”

Capello said he does not see any signs the issues existed before the Bennetts moved in and suggested the recent rainfall could have “aggravated the situation,” but he was not certain. He previously gave them until the winter to either get the house fixed or move out. But after a return visit Thursday morning, he determined they needed to get out “as soon as they can.”

“There was water around electrical sockets in the children’s bedroom,” Ms. Bennett said.

It was hard news to swallow for a young couple that had just purchased their first home. Tasha, 23, and Chad, 24, had worked for three years to build up their credit so they could buy a home. They looked at a number of places, where either the price or the home did not fit their needs. When they found their home on Crabapple Drive, they thought it was the right place for them, their children, Vivianna, 3, and Timothy, 2, and their dogs.

A $420 home inspection led them to believe everything was fine. The home passed. Tasha Bennett said the inspection company’s only suggestion was to budget for a new roof “down the road” because it had apparently suffered damage during last winter’s ice storm.

The Bennetts would like to hold the home inspection company culpable for the inspection, but as Tasha Bennett said, “There are so many loopholes in their contract,” adding the inspection company told them afterward they do not look for mold, code violations or hidden problems. The Bennetts were told they should have sought another inspection before buying the home.

“We got the best inspection — the most expensive anyway. They didn’t mention any of this… How many people can afford more than one $400 inspection?” Bennett said.

And Tasha Bennett added, “Why would you go and pay to have another inspection done when you’re told there’s no problems?”

“I can’t believe this is happening. It makes me so angry… I don’t wish this on anybody,” Bennett said. “I’m kind of hoping for an Extreme Home Makeover. We need it. We got scammed wicked.”

The Bennetts have not received much support from others involved. When they called their own real estate agent, they were told, “It happens to the best of us, kid,” Bennett said.

“Arthur’s (Capello) doing a great job. He’s the only one helping us. He’s been the best help,” he added.

Capello said he did not have any words he could say to comfort the family. He said he has never seen a home the age of theirs with the same extent of damage. He said there is “not a lot I can do” because “it’s a civil matter.”

“We’re not trying to badmouth anyone. We just want to let people know about the problem and to be careful,” Tasha Bennett said.

As of Thursday evening, the family did not know where they were going to stay. Tasha Bennett said their closest family is in Bangor, Maine. Her brother is currently attending college in Portland, but as she said, “We can’t stay in a dorm.”

The Bennetts have contacted a lawyer about suing the previous owners. They said they either want them to help pay for the damages or buy the house back. If that does not work, they will have to foreclose on the home, “ruining his (Chad’s) credit for another seven to 12 years,” Tasha Bennett said.

I’m thinking that this would come under an implied warrant of merchantability. Basically this structure was sold as fit for a specific purpose which evidently it is not from the story. I think I’ll jump on my bike and take a look at the property a little later. This really makes the professions look very bad whether you are an inspector or builder and I do both. It pisses me off and I have no vested interest per se.

The “sad” part about this is … The owner of the HouseMaster franchise…Daryl Justham… is a member of the newly formed …
New Hampshire Home Inspector’s Licensing board!

He was and is a STRONG advocate of the “Ride Along” aka Slave Labor Program to* TRAIN* New Inspectors! :roll:

It looks like he is the one in need of training! :wink:

Jim, this has nothing to do with licensing.

How many of the problems would an unlicensed inspector find?

Sad story and I feel for the buyers, but I don’t see what licensing has to do with it.

It is a good example of what HIs can and cannot see and report on during an inspection.

Once more…the citizen has been duped into funding a “licensing board” that does nothing for him…but provides home inspectors with the means of protecting their markets.

As Rick says…no standard SOP would have you pulling off siding or digging up footings. Nothing that caused these people to lose a home was preventable by a noninvasive inspection.

Licensing solves nothing.

Thermal imaging would have found the moisture problems but hey that’s just an expensive flashlight, right James.

You read the newspaper article…now… see the video!:stuck_out_tongue:


Thermal imaging is not a part of any inspection SOP. Thermal imaging is up to interpretation. Thermal imaging should be sold as an ancillary.

Let’s stick to the SOP. All SOPs are pretty similar. There’s a reason for it.

Licensing, pro or con, has absolutely NOTHING to do with this problem. I submit that the inspector liklely did nothing wrong.

I defy any inspector to have discovered hidden damage… ANY hidden damage.

Be careful here guys. Your posts and opinions are all across the public sector, via this message board.

Indeed, any of what you say here can easily be researched and possibly used against you when its YOUR turn at bat.

I absolutely agree.

Nothing in the NACHI or ASHI SOP would have led to the discovery of the failed footing and moldy sheathing revealed following the “big rain”.

The NH media was used by proponents of licensing…with similar hard luck stories…to argue for a law. They got it. Nothing has changed.

Licensing…even in the state of New Hampshire…has solved nothing.

Joe, I was not referring to any SOP, just that thermal imaging more than likely would have discovered the moisture. As far as any inspector not finding these issue’s my question would be how do you go from an inspection where no defects are found to a condemned unihabitable home in less than two months.

Problem here is we only know one side of the story.

That is correct Peter, one sided story.

It is difficult at times to imagine what kind of damage may be lurking under siding of a home unless invasive measures are taken to reveal any suspicions that a home inspector may have at the time based only on visual observations.

Look at this first picture of this house also in New Hampshire.

Looks fine dosen’t it? Well for some anyways;)

Now look at what invasive measures reveal based on suspicions.

So you see, no one could ever suspect this type of damage, unless your paid to use the tools of technology or invasive measures to discover them.

Let us just hope that none of us get stuck in a controversy such as what happened in the story above.
No matter who is at fault, it is not an involvement I would like to experience.

Hopefull, we might get to hear the ending of this Broadcast some other time to see how it ends so we can all learn from that incident.

Your right Marcel, many time’s we can’t see what’s hidden. In this case though they said the basement was freshly painted, new insulation and plastic covering the walls. In my opinion, the nature of the roof design would have led me to wonder where all that water is going. You can see that the main roof dumps water onto the bay window which in turn dumps it onto the deck. I always use a 3 foot probe to check for rot, whether it’s in the box sill, under the front door and especially around the deck such as this one. In this case it sounds like the interior wall cavity was somewhat accessible.

As you know I’ve been a contractor for 25 years and can’t tell you how many houses I repaired so I guess I might be more aware of the conditions that lead to these problems but like we said it’s difficult to judge by looking at picture’s on a message board. I think this is a good learning experience for all inspectors. With the amount of rain we’ve had over the last 3-4 years here in New England I’m seeing more and more rot on house’s than I ever have in 25 years.

I agree Peter and we are about to see more of the same thing.
As more and more young people come into the trade and take shortcuts and run with the Green Backs, we will see more.

The biggest clue of all when Inspecting homes such as this is Flashing.
Unless flashing is installed in all the areas that are suseptable to leakage from the rain screen, like window heads, exterior trim boards at base of clapboard siding, corner board sealants for clapboard, etc., we can expect some sort of water intrusions at some point within the wall assemblies.
An IR is about the only detection device that can tell.
Most observations will only show otherwise.
This scenario only sparks a warning to all of us to be more alert when observing conditions of an exterior home.
Should we point out more areas of concern for water intrusions, lack of sealants in areas that we suspect water leakage, assumme the worst, or note that some areas may be damaged by water intrusions and claim that it is not visible at time of Inspection.

I don’t know what the answer is to that.
Open for suggestions.
Thanks Peter. :):smiley:

One of the hardest lesson’s I learned or perhaps the best was years ago, I gave someone a price on replacing the front door on a cape. It had the basic 10 pitch roof, precast concrete front steps, no gutters or rain diverters. What I didn’t notice or take the time to really look at was the front steps where leaning back toward the house. When I took the door out everything down to the foundation was rotted. I took me two days to fix it and I lost my shirt but I honored my contract and moved on. That was 20 years ago and as I said lesson well learned and since then have repaired many rotted sills, sheathing, you name it.

Gets me thinking. Maybe NACHI could do a training video on what to look for?


Your post was dead-on.

And Peter, you are correct in your post, as well.

But, to Marcel’s photo… A blind man couldnt miss the apparent back-pitch at the far end of the deck…

Good eye Joe.:wink:
The whole problem here was actually an existing sliding door unit above the deck not in those pictures and lack of proper flashing of the unit and lack of deck ledger flashing. Negative slope on the deck just compounded the problem.
Lack of visible ledger flashing was a dead giveaway. :slight_smile:


Nice photos! Did you do this inspection?

  • There is a good lesson to be learned here.

I always probe for wood rot as I am sure that you, Pete and Joe do. Now that Pete has a Thermal camera he has a distinct advantage.:stuck_out_tongue:

I am interested in hearing the story on how the inspector found the wood rot. :wink:


Frank, this was actually a house that belonged to my Boss’es girlfriend and I did the repairs myself.
The house had a fire before Christmas and suffered major smoke damage.
Once it was stripped down I took it apon myself to investigate all the issues at hand, and improper flashings and saturated exterior trims was the giveaway to most of the exterior problems.
This house had major issues, but it was only with my inspecting skills learned here at Inachi that help to discover them and of course a few moons of construction experience. :mrgreen:

A learning experience. Happens everyday even after all these years. ;):slight_smile:

As to the original post……I have inspected hundreds and hundreds of basements that had “painted over water leaks” and no matter how much paint the home owner used there was always the ever present “yellowish water / mineral stains” that leached back through the paint.
I have seen homeowners use “Killz” to no avail.

I have seen home owners hire “Professional painters” to hide the water stains and then file complaints against them with the BBB or in small claims court when the “stains came back”.

The bottom line is no matter how much paint you use it will not “dry out & hide” an area that has an ongoing / continuous WATER SEEPAGE problem.

Look at the video… The walls do not look *pristine *and “freshly painted” to me.

Look at what appears to be several OLD water marks that leached through the joints and the paint!

Look at the water marks at the base of the walls where it meets the basement floor.

It is my opinion that the “inspector” should have seen this.

I guess that it is a “Good thing” that Hose Master requires that ALL of their franchises carry E&O insurance!

I wonder if the home owner is aware of this?:wink:

Good Catch! :stuck_out_tongue: