MARCO ISLAND — Regina Dayton of Marco says she came to the Island to sit on her lanai reading her mother’s bible.
Instead, she stood in the heat late Tuesday morning holding a sign near the end of her driveway. She asked drivers passing by her home on Spinnaker Drive, near Tigertail Beach, to read a report of the problems she and her husband, Tim, have experienced in their custom-built home with a water view.
An inspection report by Dennis Franklin, a building code examiner out of Titusville, Fla., outlined the code violations and work not performed in compliance with the Florida Building Code and Florida Statutes that he reported finding in May 2008.
Dayton has pursued legal action against the builder, Kimball-Hill Homes — who has since gone bankrupt — as well as the city building department.
She says she initially had no intention to go after the city, but while trying to pursue problems in workmanship through construction guarantees, she learned the certificate of occupancy and city building inspections indicating building was done up to code made her case against the builder difficult.
“I went to the city looking for a monetary settlement and to admit they made a mistake in oversight approving egregious violations of the building codes,” said Dayton.
The city issued the certificate of occupancy in 2006.
Dayton said the reason it took so long for her to pursue corrective action by the city was because it took time to discover the problems in the home and secondly, attempting to hold the builder responsible was difficult and time-consuming given the contract she signed with them.
Community Development Director Steve Olmsted said in looking back at the home’s inspection process, which was performed before his employment with and oversight of the city’s building department, he said there appeared to be no problems at the home and no building code violations could be found.
“It appeared to be in perfect condition,” he said of his summer 2008 visit to the Dayton home.
The home had experienced two hurricanes, Charlie and Wilma, while being built and work has been done on the home after the inspections and certificate of occupancy, he added.
Olmsted and Chief Building Official Bob Mahar also answered to some of the alleged code violations, which Dayton had said were most egregious, including air conditioning equipment installed under flood levels and missing shower pans, which allowed water to seep throughout the walls and floors.
Mahar stated that shower pans are not a required inspection under Florida Building Code Paragraph 105.6 (2001).
“With regard to the air conditioner, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Elevation Certificate, on file in our office, shows the base flood elevation of the property at the time of permit application to be 11 feet and the lowest elevation of machinery and/or equipment, the air conditioner, on the property to be 11.4 feet, or 0.4 feet above the base flood elevation,” Olmsted wrote in an e-mail to the reporter Tuesday morning.
While those two issues are among the earliest concerns noted by the Dayton’s in terms of code violations not found by the city, Franklin’s report notes about eight other possible code or state statute violations.
“If it were just two or three things, we’d chalk it up to human error. We’d understand that. There is so much in here, that in our minds, it’s egregious,” Dayton said.
“If the city’s building department isn’t required to do their jobs after being paid taxes, inspection fees and impact fees, then perhaps it should be shut down,” she said.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulations is handling six complaints filed by Dayton against Mahar and the builder. DBPR is expected to determine if there is due cause to investigate the complaints, and if so, those details may then become public.
Olmsted said he hoped people did not jump to conclusions as Mahar’s professional reputation is at stake.
“I would hope this is not tried in the court of public opinion before the DBPR has had a chance to determine if there is any due cause to even investigate,” Olmsted said.
Dayton acknowledged that she and her husband, who is away on a naval ship, were anxious to get the certificate of occupancy and move into their home, which was being built from 2002 through 2006.
Dayton said she spent about $4,000 for the Franklin inspection and said if she knew back in 2006, what she knows now, she would have hired him before moving in or requesting the city issue the certificate of occupancy.
When building begins to pick back up, she said people could take a few lessons away from the experience she is having.
These are her tips to consumers:
- Don’t sign a contract with binding arbitration as the only course of action if something goes wrong. It prevents the consumer from using all the evidence and witnesses they need to prove their case in court.
- Have something that prevents the owner from extreme delays, not including hurricanes or supply shortages outside the company’s control.
- Understand what impact fees are for.
- Oversee the builders and inspectors.