NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk homeowner Connor Jewell learned the hard way that even with a home inspection your dream home can turn into a nightmare.
To help warn other potential home buyers, he placed a big sign in the front yard of his Chesapeake Boulevard home that reads, “Do not buy that house before talking to me.” An arrow on the sign points to the house next door.
“I just wanted the buyer of that house to know what I went through,” said Connor.
10 On Your Side first covered Jewell’s story on April 14. Since then, we’ve been digging into the issues he presented, and how they were overlooked.
“It’s a money pit,” said Michael Jewell. That’s how Michael and her husband, Connor, describe their rehabbed home sold to them by Mozart Investment LLC.
According to Connor, the three biggest problems with their home are, “plumbing, electrical, HVAC.”
The Jewells claim these specific problems cost them $32,000 to repair, after paying $289,000 for the home.
Air.norfolk.gov reports the Jewells purchased the home from Mozart Investment LLC for $278,000 on 10-13-2021, which is more than two times the purchase price for Mozart on 12-4-2020 for $120,000. Connor said after all was said and done his loan was for $289,000.
Repairs included fixing improper 90-degree bends and issues with the sewer lateral that takes wastewater from the home to the city main.
Jewell called his plumber. “He came out and got under the house and first thing he saw was raw sewage and water coming out of the pipe, and right off the bat he found there were improper fittings.”
Complicating all this, the City of Norfolk confirms Mozart Investment LLC failed to get the required Norfolk city permits to rehab the house in the first place.
One month ago, 10 On Your Side went looking for Mozart Investment’s Registered Agent Schiller Menard, who sold the home to the Jewells. A woman came to the door and said Menard was not there.
When asked, “Do you know where he is?”, she simply stated “no” then walked away.
Shortly after that, Menard’s attorney Kevin Brunick gave WAVY a call, “I can tell you he is willing to discuss this with Mr. Jewell with the hope and intention they can come together with some sort of agreement.”
So where are we one month later?
The Jewells are hopeful. “Yes, I think we are in a better place. Up until the story ran, we hadn’t had any contact with Mr. Menard or his lawyer,” Connor said.
10 On Your Side’s story led to some good news. “One month later both sides are talking to get some type of settlement and take care of business.”
Connor added, “They’ve been reasonable. We have been back and forth, and I have sent over some of the repairs I have had done, so it is on me to get back with my contractors and get an itemized list and better breakdowns for them to see exactly what I had done.”
The Jewells were not flying blind in this home purchase as they had a home inspection that Jewell claims failed him.
Curt Lind owns the company. 10 On Your Side found him at his home and told him, “He wanted a good home inspection that would have caught this problem, and it did not.”
Lind responded, “OK, and I apologized to him, and this is why I sent it through my insurance company.”
The insurance company supported their client Mr. Lind, which was more bad news for the Jewells. The City of Norfolk confirms the home was rehabbed without any of the required city permits, so there was no check and balance from the city.
Does Jewell think the City of Norfolk dropped the ball?
Connor said, “I don’t blame the city for it, but it was missed you cannot catch all of them. It is unfortunate they didn’t catch mine.”
The City of Norfolk’s Acting Director of Communications, Kelly Straub, emailed this statement:
“The City is simply not staffed at a level that allows us continuously to surveil the city to locate work on existing buildings without permits and thus we operate on a complaint-based basis, usually via the MyNorfolk app or online portal and the Norfolk Cares call center.
“Complicating this for building permits is that the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code exempts many physical improvements to existing buildings from building permit requirements. Thus, there are many unpermitted projects that occur without violating any Code.”
This appears to be an unsettling buyer beware from the city, which says it only responds to complaints.
This brings us back to the Jewells’ sign, and what will it take for them to take it down, “We want to be compensated at least for the money we spent to get the house to code. There are going to be some things that I had to go through that could be wrong with that house as well, and that’s why they should talk to me before buying that house.”
You can obtain information on any property in the City of Norfolk, including a building permit list, by accessing the website https://air.norfolk.gov/
Q&A with City of Norfolk Spokesperson Kelly Straub. We thank her for compiling this information.
WAVY: I just spoke with the attorney of the builders of 2934 Chesapeake Blvd. Mozart LLC. I believe he is mistaken when he tells me they did not need to get permits for water or electricity because it was a refurbished house and not a new construction. Is that true? Did they need permits?
STRAUB: B21-01530 was a building repairs permit for replacing damaged lumber on back porch, new handrails, and replaced damaged shingles. According to the provided information, there were no plumbing or electrical improvements proposed or requested permits. It was permitted for all exterior repairs. Adding new water lines and electrical wiring will require permits.
WAVY: If that is true then why did the city come out immediately after Mr. Jewell closed on the property and give a failed inspection for water sewer and electrical? And why did Mr. Jewell then have to get permits for his guys to do what Mozart failed to do?
STRAUB: In response to a complaint, the Plumbing and Electrical Inspectors were allowed inside and many working-without-permit type code discrepancies were found without proper permits in place.
WAVY: What is the record of permits taken out with the city at that address 2934 Chesapeake Blvd by anyone including Mozart LLC. Specifically Mozart in 2019, 2020, 2021?
Number Type Status Street Contractor Applicant Issue Date Created Date
B22-00300 Building Finaled 2934 CHESAPEAKE BOULEVARD Jacob Jewell 3/21/2022 2/23/2022
ZP22-00065 Zoning Issued 2934 CHESAPEAKE BOULEVARD Donald J Baker 2/23/2022 2/23/2022
E22-00055 Electrical Finaled 2934 CHESAPEAKE BOULEVARD Jacob Jewell 1/11/2022 1/7/2022
P22-00058 Plumbing Finaled 2934 CHESAPEAKE BOULEVARD BARRY AND SONS PLUMBING LLC Roy Barry 1/11/2022 1/10/2022
B21-01530 Building Issued 2934 CHESAPEAKE BOULEVARD Mozart Investment Greg Mozart 8/24/2021 8/9/2021
WAVY: Is this statement that I am going to report correct? “According to Norfolk city records there is NO evidence that Mozart LLC ever got the required city permits to do water and electric work at 2934 Chesapeake Blvd.”
STRAUB: This appears to be correct.
WAVY: Any updates on Mozart LLC Properties: 931 Norview Ave or 2930 Chesapeake Blvd? It looks like, following our report, they finally got a building permit at 2930 on 4/27/22?
STRAUB: There was a revision on 4/27/22 for 2930 Chesapeake Blvd, due to a change in lumber supplier, the original permit was issued on 8/12/2021What does the city expect builders to do/rules they are expected to follow?
WAVY: What does the city expect builders to do/rules they are expected to follow?
STRAUB: All contractors are required to submit an application to Norfolk’s Development Services Center to obtain a permit prior to the commencement of any of the following activities:
- (i) the removal or addition of any wall, partition or portion thereof,
- (ii) any structural component,
- (iii) the repair or replacement of any required component of a fire or smoke rated assembly,
- (iv) the alteration of any required means of egress system, including the addition of emergency supplemental hardware,
- (v) water supply and distribution system, sanitary drainage system or vent system,
- (vi) electric wiring,
- (vii) fire protection system, mechanical systems, or fuel supply systems, or
- (viii) any equipment regulated by the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.
- For change of occupancy, application for a permit shall be made when a new certificate of occupancy is required by the Virginia Existing Building Code.
- Movement of a lot line that increases the hazard to or decreases the level of safety of an existing building or structure in comparison to the building code under which such building or structure was constructed.
- Removal or disturbing of any asbestos containing materials during the construction or demolition of a building or structure, including additions.
- Contractors are also compelled to follow the Rules of Va. DPOR Department of Professional Occupation and Regulation, the Building Codes and Title 54 of the Code of Va. They are required to write contracts and fulfill their contracts. Va. DPOR. https://dporweb.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/
WAVY: What should residents know or look for when purchasing a home?
STRAUB: There are many house flippers who rehab houses without permits or inspections. New homeowners must be aware when they see new fixtures, equipment, additions, etc. that these activities may require a permit. They can contact our office at 757-664-6565 or visit the city’s open data website. Also, if anyone sees work or repairs being done with no posted permit, they can submit a complaint to the Norfolk Cares Center (by app, online portal, email or phone). We cannot reiterate enough that real estate agents and potential homebuyers should hire a Home Inspector and check for any improvements or alterations that have occurred and make certain that permits and inspections have been performed and completed prior to purchasing the home.
WAVY: After they bought the house and they had issues they called the city and you guys came out and gave them Noticed of violations. I am interested in the bullet points that led to these notice of violations that the inspectors might have. Plumbing it says work not installed to codes what was not installed to codes? Electrical work done without permits what were the issues you found that were wrong with the electrical set up at the house.
STRAUB: These were violations inspections that were generated by the complaint. The notice basically says work was done without permits, and a permit must be issued. Once a permit is issued, we conduct permitted inspections. These types of inspections are itemized and noted. Rental property inspections are conducted as a maintenance inspection handled by another city department who enforces the maintenance provisions of the building code.