Inspector finds defects in local builders’ homes

Some issues missed by code enforcement.
JEMA Builders customers said their homes had numerous problems, wall cracks, HVAC issues and more that the company was refusing to fix.
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:12 PM EST
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MINT HILL, N.C. (WBTV) - A private home inspector found more construction issues with a local company investigated by WBTV. The new findings raise questions about why code enforcement inspectors in Mecklenburg County were not able to catch the problems the first time around.

WBTV’s investigations revealed JEMA Builders was representing itself as a construction company to its customers despite not having a general contractors license. Public records revealed a different company was listed as the GC on permits but that company name was absent from most customers paperwork.

JEMA Builders customers said their homes had numerous problems, wall cracks, HVAC issues and more that the company was refusing to fix.

As WBTV continued investigating, we found another JEMA home that had extensive issues. A private inspector found so many problems that were not identified by county inspectors that the permit was reopened for the general contractor to fix the defects.

Also Read: Who built their house? WBTV Investigation surprises new homebuyers who didn’t realize who their contractor was

That inspector was John Galop of Galop Home Concepts. His report shows problems with doors, drainage, the kitchen and beneath the surface, including exterior walls that were not given the required support.

Galop is hired by people buying new homes to do a final inspection before they close on the house. By the time he comes in, a home has already been inspected by local Code Enforcement and received a certificate of occupancy.

The owners of the JEMA Builders home on Mintbrook Drive, found out their home had significant problems, not identified in the inspection and after the certificate of occupancy was granted, the permit was reopened to fix the issues.

Given the problems Galop found in that one house WBTV asked him to look over other JEMA homes, too.

It didn’t take him long to find some similarities in the Flores home.

“There’s a good chance that that exterior wall would fail because they always have an opportunity to be tested here,” Galop told the Flores family.

Gallop said the number of cracks and drywall damage, which WBTV first highlighted in the October investigation, is also caused by poor construction.

“You’ve got floor joists that are bearing on those empty areas where your foundation vents are. You’re going to see those annoying cracks in walls,” Galop said.

The next JEMA home Galop inspected is owned by the Fernandez family. The issues identified issues outside of the house.

“I would guess that water sits right in here. Because if you look, it’s got to have a path out of here,” Galop said pointing to the front yard.

Galop’s inspection found the yard is not properly sloped and could lead to fungal growth and wood destroying insects at the foundation wall.

WBTV contacted JEMA too to see if they would fix the problems found in these inspections. Their legal counsel emailed back writing – “All homebuyers are provided with an opportunity to conduct their own inspections prior to purchase.”

She wrote JEMA is not obligated to do any repairs on the Flores home since it is past the one-year warranty but indicated the company “will repair the items shown on the inspection report.” One day later she wrote the Flores family is refusing that offer and is speaking with their attorney about the situation.

JEMA’s attorney claimed no repair requests have been submitted for Fernandez home, so they “will not be performing any work on this home.”

“If repairs are requested and performed, a re-inspection takes place. With a clean inspection report from the City, the homes are given a Certificate of Occupancy. JEMA Builders does not have any pending work orders on any of their homes. The warranty offered by JEMA Builders is a 1 year warranty and its coverage is specifically outlined in the purchase contract,” JEMA’s statement read.

WBTV also wanted to know how these problems that were so apparent to Galop, got by county code inspectors who get paid by taxpayers to spot construction problems before a home is certified for people to move in.

Both Mecklenburg and Union Counties pointed out they are required to enforce the state’s building codes which are the minimum standards for construction and private inspections often offer recommendations that exceed that.

The property on Hayes Rd is in Union County but Director of Code Enforcement Mark Griffin told WBTV that the issues found by the inpsector are not part of the required inspection process for his department.

“While Code violations were numerous during the construction process at the Hayes Rd. project, each and every violation was corrected and then verified by Building Code Enforcement staff prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. Again, please be aware that Building Codes serve as a minimal threshold,” Director Mark Griffin wrote in an email.

However, a spokesperson for Mecklenburg County that some construction issues that made it past inspection should have been flagged.

“While many of the items in the private home inspection report were not a subject of code compliance, and none were life safety issues, some could be in the scope for identification in the Code Enforcement’s normal inspections process,” the statement read on the Mintbrook Drive property.

That home, and other JEMA projects, had high rates of inspection failures. More than a dozen inspections failed per home in some cases.

“On high-failure projects such as the subject project, inspectors are usually confronted with so many code defects it is likely the inspection focus turns to identifying code defects and not particularly on the workmanship issues,” the statement read.