MONROE, NC (WBTV) - In the quiet of Union County farm country Heather and Lee Henage built the house they always wanted.
"The outside looks great," said Lee Henage.
It turns out looks can be deceiving.
"What we've discovered is underneath that, the bones of the house, there are problems," said Henage.
Piers that support the weight of the house are missing.
"It's not going to be easy, or inexpensive for them for them to correct," said Paul King, a certified home inspector. "It poses a structural instability problem."
Engineers hired by the Henages put together a detailed report and found dozens of structural and safety issues.
The windows in the children's upstairs bedroom are 46" off the floor. Fire code says they can only be 44" off the floor to provide an exit in an emergency.
There are other issues found in the home's crawl space. Straps designed to keep the frame of the house connected to the foundation aren't installed correctly. It could cause problems in a strong windstorm.
"Yes, I would be nervous about that," said King.
The most serious of the problems were backed up in a report by investigators with the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal. It points out "life safety issues" and code violations.
"We thought the house is passing inspections it must be structurally sound," said Heather Henage.
King says Union County code inspectors should have been able to spot the problems.
"At a framing stage yes, it should have been caught," said King.
The violations weren't caught. Union County inspector Greg Capehart kept passing the home. The Henages are now suing him and the Union County Inspections Department.
Capehart has not returned WBTV's calls for comment. Union County Inspection Department Director John Reavis also declined to comment citing the pending lawsuit. In its response to the court, the county says it did nothing wrong.
The Henages say they've gotten nowhere with the builder Tsitouris Homes and dismissed it from a lawsuit because the company is no longer in business.
Just before the Henage home was finished, the state was wrapping up another investigation. It found Capehart guilty of "willful misconduct, gross negligence, or gross incompetence" for failing to enforce code provision on a different home.
Capehart did not admit guilt in the case, but he did agree to a 3 month suspension of his license.
"Just infuriating to me that the county is denying that they did anything wrong," said Heather Henage. "Yet they know that they guy who inspected my house has done the same thing before."
"You sink all your savings and future income to buy a house." said Lee Henage. "And put it on your family property and it's devastating."
The Fire Marshal Office's final report on the Henage home is expected to in the next couple weeks. It will then be determined if Capehart will face any state ordered discipline. As of right now he is still doing inspections in Union County.
The Henages say repairs to their home will cost $162,000. Their lawsuit is still working its way through the legal system.
King says homeowners should consider hiring an inspector at the framing stage to catch problems before drywall and insulation goes up. But he says most people don't because they rely on county inspectors to pick up code violations.