CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If someone breaks something of yours, they should be obligated to fix it, right? That’s the way the world is supposed to work. But the city of Charlotte says they don’t have to fix a home they damaged, and the reason why caught the eye of Consumer Investigative Reporter Bill McGinty.
Storm drain work is a common sight in many Charlotte neighborhoods. Sometimes, the work requires the city to dig up property on the easement -- property you maintain, but they own access to it.
Anthony and April Jones have such a property in east Charlotte. The city recently installed a newer and bigger underground stormwater drainage pipe right through their property and next to their house.
It was a huge project, lasting months, and it left lasting effects on their home.
“They were jackhammering along the foundation because they were trying to move concrete, and that’s when the house was vibrating and when the cracks started appearing in the house,” the couple said.
On the outside, the house is cracked and is shifting. The couple says the damages keep appearing inside the house too. They say the wall is twisted on the outside and keeps pushing inward -- saying it was never there before this project.
Their windows are so twisted they’ve had to cover them with plastic to keep drafts out.
Anthony and April asked the city to repair the damage, all in about $117,000 worth. But here’s where the story takes a weird turn -- the city told them they’re not liable for the damages.
Why? A piece of paper called a property damage release.
It was presented to and signed by the home’s previous owner when damage was done once before. That release was never disclosed to Anthony and April Jones, according to their lawyer Chris Hood.
Documents show when they bought the house in 2015, the prior owners had just signed it -- which is a whole separate issue.
The release says the city will, from that point forward, be free of liability if anything else goes wrong during stormwater work on that property. They even paid the previous homeowner owner $41,000. But the Joneses knew nothing about it.
With this release, the city of Charlotte is clearly trying to override the original stormwater easement agreement which says they have to fix anything they break on the property.
“I just want the house fixed," the family told NBC Charlotte. "We just want it like the way it was before they were here.”
It’s likely the city will settle this out of court, given that a judge recently sided with the Joneses saying that damage release is invalid.
This story should serve as a warning to home sellers -- you better disclose paperwork like that release, because not doing so could be viewed as fraud. The previous homeowners are currently named in the lawsuit as well.
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