PSI: The vanishing bedroom

Published: Jul. 15, 2013 at 3:36 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2013 at 3:36 PM EDT
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MOORESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - It's not easy to get one by Bruce Dumonceau. He spent 20 years on the streets working for the NYPD.
"(I) retired as a sergeant in 2005," said Dumonceau as he walked us through his Mooresville home.
The long time fraud investigator finds himself in the middle of a dispute that boils down to the definition of closet.
"I thought it was a closet," said Dumonceau.
He's also certain the "closet" makes the room off his second floor hallway, a bedroom.
It sounds silly and anyone who took a quick glance at the room would say it's a bedroom, but it's not that simple and for Bruce the debate is worth thousands of dollars.
It all goes back to 2007. Dumonceau retired from the NYPD and moved his family to Mooresville. He and his wife, with a son and daughter wanted a four-bedroom house.
"Retire, live by the lake, have a boat slip," said Dumonceau. "Perfect."
And it was, until recently. Six years after buying the home, the kids were grown and moving out.
"Don't need all this," said Dumonceau. 
It was time to downsize.
Dumonceau, who now had his real estate license, was going to list the house. He started pulling together the paper work. It's when he found an important document. It was the home's septic permit that was drawn up in 1994, two years before the house was built. A close look showed the septic was for a 3 bedroom house, not four.
 "Originally I thought well someone, somewhere along the line made a mistake," said Dumonceau.
He made calls to the original builder, M/I Homes.
"They send out a representative," said Dumonceau. "She walks through the house."
It appeared the builder was going to fix the problem.
"They sent a soil scientist out who flagged the existing system," said Dumonceau.
It's when everything stopped. M/I Homes had a piece of paper and a change of heart.
"The original owners had signed an addendum which deleted bedroom four and turned it into a bonus," said Dumonceau.
So, the room Dumonceau thought was a bedroom, used as a bedroom, was not a bedroom. It was a bonus room because the closet wasn't a closet.
"No, to them this was a niche with a cased opening," said Dumonceau.
Curious, because if you look at the original building plans. The room is called a bedroom, just like the house down the street with the same floor plan. 
"Exact same home, four bedrooms," said Dumonceau.
By the way, Iredell County taxes Bruce's home as a 4-bedroom house.  And one more thing when he bought the home, the listing agency, Allen Tate, advertised in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) as a 4-bedroom house.
"Nobody claims to have done anything wrong," said Dumonceau. 
WBTV contacted Allen Tate's office to ask why the agent didn't pull the septic permit before listing the house. In an email response to Dumonceau, the company said in part "We neither intentionally, nor negligently misled anyone and at all relevant times we complied with the then existing standards of conduct."

A spokesperson said the company wouldn't comment any further because the case is now before the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.
WBTV also contacted M/I Homes to ask questions about the permit, the plans and the paperwork. The company would not grant us an interview. In an email VP of Construction Steve Suttles wrote. "Per our Agreement with the original home owner, M/I built a three bedroom home with a septic system sized appropriately. The home received all required permits and passed all required inspections, prior to the home closing with the original owner. " 
"I just want it fixed," said Dumonceau.
It has been fixed, with Bruce so far footing the nearly $10,000 bill. He still wants someone else to own up to the mistake.
 "You made a mistake, correct your mistake," said Dumonceau.
 WBTV also checked with Iredell County on the issue as well. We were told inspectors currently do confirm that septic permits match building plans. In the mid 1990's it didn't always happen.
And it appears it didn't happen when the Dumonceau home was built in 1996. We were also told, you can't change room names to fit the permit after the fact.

The Dumonceau's have considered hiring an attorney to take on the dispute, but were hoping to avoid it.

In the meantime, if you are buying or selling a home with septic, make sure everything is checked out.

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