FOX 29 Investigates: More Homeowners Complain of Leaks, Mold

- FOX 29 is investigating more homes and more leaks.

Last month, we introduced you to two new homeowners whose homes started leaking right after they moved in.

That damage cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Since our story first aired more homeowners began coming forward saying they have similar problems with the same builder.

Fox 29's Dave Schratwieser went to city officials, and the builder in question, looking for answers.

"It was water. Water, mold and rot and that's basically the whole problem," Sister Elaine Swan explained.  

Sister Elaine won't soon forget what she found when she moved into her new home on Alder Street in South Philadelphia, in leaking skylights and a leaky front balcony with towels stuffed inside. 

"The whole veranda was tilted towards the house instead of being tilted towards the street. So the water all came in, over the window here," Sister Elaine said.

Heather Marcus can't forget either. She lives a few doors down from Sister Elaine. Heather says her new home leaked from the day she moved in.

"Water was leaking from the roof, so it was coming from the third floor, through the second floor to the first floor," Marcus explained, "Mr. Valenti did send people to fix these things several times, but they were never fixed. And it continued to leak."

Sister Elaine and Heather are the latest two homeowners to come forward after we aired our FOX 29 Investigates report last month about two homes on Dickinson Street near 5th Street. Graham Palusky and Justin Fenerty told us a similar story about their leaky homes.

 

"It's obvious it's a pattern. It's not a onetime event," Graham explained.

"Myself and Graham put towels and buckets, then we're going to find the cash to fix our homes. It's difficult after you purchased a $300,000 home," Justin added.

Justin and Graham are suing, Anthony Valenti of Design Builders, and the developer who sold them their homes, Joseph Ruggiero of Northstar Pennsport LLC for over $50,000 each after they say leaks popped up all over and damaged their new homes.

"When everything was ripped up by the new contractor to fix, underneath there was black," Marcus said.

Heather Marcus hired a new contractor to fix her home. She sued Anthony Valenti too for the damages to her home. She was awarded a default judgement of over $10,000. 

"Design builders, by law, owes me the money that I paid for repairs that they should have done, but did not," Marcus explained.

"Well I got a lawyer and the lawyer said he's got so many lawsuits against him, one more isn't going to make any difference," Sister Elaine added.

In fact, FOX 29 Investigates found over half a dozen judgements and out of court settlements involving Valenti in court records. Some involved homeowners, others involved contractors. Even PGW has a judgement against Valenti.

Two homeowners on Emily Street also won judgements against Design Builders. A home owner there, who asked not to be identified, told us his home began leaking right after he purchased it.

"When it rains, it flooded. The carpet was molded and that's why we got the hardwood floors done too. You see all the cracks," the homeowner explained.

Graham and Justin say they're baffled. They can't understand how the city allows Valenti to continue to build homes and continue to get permits from the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

"I'm surprised the city hasn't done anything to stop it. I'm curious if there's any accountability in the l and i department," Graham asked.

"I'm shocked that he's still able to get permits," Justin asked.

"L&I inspections are critically important for public safety, but they are not an assurance that you're getting what you want in a house," explained Karen Guss of L&I.

L&I officials saw our first story. They say they're concerned, but added that homebuyers often misunderstand what their inspections are for.

"What an L&I inspection won't tell you is that the house is a good place to live," Guss added.

L&I says you should get your own home inspector before you buy a home.

"The best time to do this is before you've signed and given over money," Guss said.

We also asked L&I officials why Valenti is still allowed to operate with this court documented history of problems at homes he was involved in building.

"If you meet the lawful requirements for a permit and a license, L&I's job is to issue that permit and license," Guss said, "We're not a consumer protection agency. We are a public safety agency

Finally we reached out to Valenti to see if he would respond. Then we went to see him at yet another complex of homes he's working on in South Philly to give him an opportunity to tell his side of the story .     

He declined.

All of this leads us back to Sister Elaine and Heather Marcus. What do they think L&I should do?

"I think they need to go to court. All this information needs to be presented. If he's got a license it should be taken away, that's for sure," Sister Elaine said.

"Certainly the houses that are being constructed right now need much, need careful inspection so other people don't go through the same things some of us have gone through," added Heather.

Graham and Justin are now having their roof decks repaired at their own cost while they await the outcome of their lawsuit. They wonder if they'll ever see any money for the damages to their homes and the repairs.

"I just can't believe there's been no contact or no attention to the matter," Graham said.

"I forgave him, but nevertheless, he isn't changing, and because he isn't changing he needs some help to change," Sister Elaine said.

L&I says it will be keeping a closer eye on Valenti's future projects as a result of our stories.

 Homeowners who have won court judgements against him say they have yet to receive one dime.

 

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