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2 Investigators: ‘Slippery’ Contractor, Or Failing City Inspectors?

CHICAGO (CBS) — A couple’s dream home turns into a money pit when they have to pay thousands of dollars to fix building code violations they believe inspectors should have found.

Shortly after moving into his new home, John Borland realized there was no insulation under the roof of his house. So, Borland had to pay to have it installed.

“An insulated attic is required by code, and on top of that, fire caulking is required by code and that wasn’t done either,” Borland says.

Plus, there were other needed repairs.

“We added three more roof vents to this house because there was inadequate ventilation,” says  Craig Matteson of ARC Insulation, hired to fix the problems. “The building inspector should have caught it.”

Borland agrees.

“If they would have caught these things I think the seller, the developer, would’ve been made to correct them instead of me paying for it,”  he says.

The work has cost him $30,000.

Records show the developer, Ronak Dave, bought the bungalow at a foreclosure auction for $188,000. He added a second floor,  more bathrooms and a finished basement — then flipped it for $505,000.

Experts say tripling the size of the house and added bathrooms require a larger water pipe to the city’s main service line in the street. That was not done. It’s a project that typically costs about $15,000.

“There won’t be enough water to fit the demands of a house of this size,” plumbing contractor Michael Goode says. He helped Borland fix some of the many plumbing problems they discovered.

Among the other code violations: the hot and cold water lines for new sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms were reversed, and a critical piece of the hot water heater’s pressure valve was missing.

“They could get burned,” Goode says. “Definite code violation.”

“Why am I paying some of the highest property taxes in the Midwest, if not the country, if I can’t rely on these things being done properly?” the home’s co-owner, Kimberly Anderson, says.

“They’re short-staffed ,” says Goode, when asked what is causing these oversights.

Other contractors agree, but Chicago’s building commissioner blames the contractor and developer for failing to ask for final inspections, as required.

“From what I can see, it appears the inspectors have done their job and the contractor has been very slippery to try to avoid us and cut corners to save money,” Judy Frydland, Chicago Department of Buildings Commissioner, tells Zekman.

Plans submitted to the city building department for permits failed to show a bathroom that added to the finished basement. And, the licensed plumbing inspector listed on the city permit did not do the work. Both are among the issues the city is now investigating.

“We’re happy that you brought this to our attention,” Frydland says. “They can know we will be their partner in this and we will get it resolved.”

The developer, Ronak Dave, says he relied on the contractor to follow city codes. The general contractor did not answer CBS 2’s questions. Whatever action the city takes, the home owners may never get back the $30,000 they spent on repairs.

Anyone buying a newly rehabbed or newly constructed single-family home should ask for evidence from the sellers that final building department inspections were done. That information is on the back of the permit.  Purchasers of multi-unit buildings should ask for an occupancy permit from the city.

Also, you can hire a private licensed home inspector to  check out the work before the walls are up and after the work is done.

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