NEWS9 Special Assignment: Dream home?


Cammie and Clint Wilson wanted a place where they could spend the rest of their lives. A place to host family and celebrate holidays.

They bought a property that was just right, but things went wrong from there.

It's a home in which Clint and Cammie Wilson will never live, where their dreams sit in limbo on a property in Wellsburg.

You can tell by the exposed flakeboard, the house is not finished. And yet, they're stuck with it.

“The dining room,” Cammie said, “was going to be for our special occasions.”

Instead, the dining room full of cracks, just like the master bedroom.

There are also tiles popping off the bathroom wall, and trim is popping off another door.

“The house is so crooked on this side, it slopes down,” Clint said.

He said a door is so wedged shut, it won't open.

The builder is based outside of the Ohio Valley.

The Wilsons first noticed problems early in construction in April 2015.

An engineer they hired soon found the foundation was out of level, out of plumb, and misaligned, resulting in separations along marriage walls, stress-induced cracks in interior finishes, and binding doors.

“The further up they went, the worse things got, and the builder refused to fix it,” Clint said. “They outright refused to do any work any repair work, to actually remedy the situation that started it all.”

Unsatisfied with the work, the Wilsons refused to pay. When their builder sued them for the balance of $176,000 owed on the house, the Wilsons counter-sued, and won.

According to court documents, a jury found in favor of the Wilsons on their breach of contract claim, saying the company materially breached the contract by failing to perform the work in a good and workmanlike manner, failing to perform the work in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and filing a mechanic's lien in violation of the terms of contract.

The jury also found in favor of the Wilsons on their Consumer Sales Practices Act claims.

Potential violations presented for consideration included, but were not limited to, findings that the company failed to perform construction services in a competent, satisfactory and workmanlike manner, then failed to correct the substandard work or defects; failed to perform the construction services in a timely manner; and failed to respond to valid complaints or supply adequate customer service within a reasonable time.

But 2 months later, in August, a magistrate overturned the verdict, saying because the house had already been partially built, it would be impossible to restore the parties to their pre-contractual positions.

She also determined the homeowners were the ones who breached the contract.

“We were shocked; we were devastated,” Cammie said.

To prepare for court, the Wilsons drained their life savings.

The magistrate ruled they're entitled to about $350 in court costs, and they can keep the house in its current condition with no additional payment due.

“We don't know what to do with the house, we don't know how to pay our attorney fees,” Cammie said.

“We have run out of options to remedy this problem,” Clint said. “We have nowhere else to go, and we do not want to see anyone else get stuck with a house like this.”

NEWS9 legal analyst Michael Nogay said there are four things you can do to make sure you don't end up in the same situation.

From the start, make sure you hire your own inspector to oversee the project every step of the way.

Your contract should state that if things don't look right to your inspector, you don't have to pay.

It's always nice to have someone on your side, to come in and say, wait this isn't done to our standards

Nogay says never agree to arbitration -- a jury trial is a better option for you.

And be sure that if you do have to take the matter to court, that you have "choice of forum," or are allowed to go through the legal process in the county where you're building -- not on the contractor's home turf.

And finally, check the West Virginia Division of Labor's website for state certified contractors.

But don't stop there.

“Just because someone’s an approved contractor doesn't mean it's someone you can necessarily trust,” Nogay said. “Ask for a list of prior customers, visit prior job sites, look at the other work that's been done, and see if the customers were happy.”

As for the Wilsons, appealing the magistrate's decision wasn't an option for them.

It would have cost them at least another $20,000 they didn't have.

Overall, they invested about $140,000 into a house they will never call home.

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