Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Home Nightmare for One Eagle Mtn. Couple

"Eagle Mountain » Kenny and Paige Woodson thought they were doing all the right things when they bought a house here.

They got the lowest-possible interest rate on their mortgage. They had a building inspector go over their new home with a fine-tooth comb before closing.

"We covered our bases as best we could," Paige Woodson said.

But on Feb. 27, more than a week after they moved in, the Woodsons discovered their house had a serious problem: It wasn't connected to the sewer system. Their sinks, bathtub and toilets all emptied into a utility conduit that eventually overflowed into the basement.

"It's a $300,000 Port-a-Potty," Kenny Woodson said, describing the situation. For a week, the Woodsons ran to a convenience store to use a toilet, and looked for showers wherever they could.

While the Woodsons have received a lot of sympathy for their plight, they have yet to find someone who will step up and take responsibility for the error -- and pay the more than $7,000 it took to fix it.

The builder and the city have laid blame at the feet of the developer, The Ranches LLC, which has gone out of business.

City Administrator John Hendrickson said even though the city approved the sewer connection, it did what it was supposed to do, even if the plan it was working from was flawed.

"We followed the procedure that we normally follow," Hendrickson said, adding the Woodsons are welcome to file a claim with the city's insurance carrier.

The house was built in 2007. It sat vacant when the bank foreclosed on the property until February, when the Woodsons bought it.

When the sewer started backing up, a plumber thought it might be a clogged pipe. When it looked like it might be a crushed pipe, city crews came in and discovered the error.

And, to make matters worse, the plan showed the sewer lateral in the wrong place. The city's crew discovered the lateral for the Woodsons' home was 80 feet due north of where it was indicated on the developer's plan.

Ryan Hales, who built the house, said developers mark the location of the sewer pipe with a green board stuck in the ground. Hales said his workers found such a board marking a pipe they believed was the sewer lateral.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, it is there," Hales said. "In this case, it was the wrong place."

Nor was the error caught when the city inspected the sewer connection in February 2007.

Hendrickson said the connection passed the inspection -- water was able to run through the pipe -- and it appeared to be in the right spot, based on the plans.

But the inspection report by the city shows the sewer connection several feet away from the sewer stub on the development plan.

Kent Partridge, the city's building official, said the house sat vacant between that inspection and when the Woodsons moved in, and anything could have happened during that time.

Hendrickson said the house was bought as-is, and that was part of the risks the Woodsons assumed.

Kenny Woodson acknow- ledges assuming some risks, but a defective sewer wasn't among them.

"They shouldn't have sold us a house that was not livable," Woodson said." -Salt Lake Tribune

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