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Troubleshooters: Dream home turned nightmare

READ MORE: Troubleshooters: Dream home turned nightmare
Pam Resch lives in Pittsburgh, and plans to retire in Holden Beach. She hired a well-known local contractor to build her home, and thought she was in good hands. But things did not quite go as planned, and she said the builder's mistake cost her a quarter million dollars and counting. Resch spent years planning out her dream home. She paid a small fortune for a beautiful waterfront house inside Brunswick County's Sea Scape community. The builder was Coastal Construction, headed by Mark Saunders, who is currently building the 2009 Idea House for Coastal Living magazine. So Pam never imagined this well known contractor would overlook something as basic as getting a building permit before starting construction back in 2006. “He started our house in mid May, we have pictures here that I can show you in different phases of the home, and he started our house without a permit and did not get a permit until June 14th," said Resch. Complicating matters, Brunswick County adopted new flood plains on June 2nd of that year. Under the old guidelines, there would have been no problem with Pam's house, but under the newly adopted flood maps, this house is two feet under the flood plain. Resch added, "Had the builder applied for a permit, which is mandatory in North Carolina, our house would have been fine. It would have been grandfathered in.” Instead, Coastal had to change its building plans midway through construction to comply with the new flood plains. That meant the planned bathroom and recreation room on the lower floor had to be converted into storage space. WWAY contacted Mark Saunders to find out how this could have happened. He didn't return our calls, but his lawyer did. "There is no question that the pilings were in prior to getting the building permit, and that is unfortunate," said Coastal Construction’s attorney Elaine Jordan. Jordan also said even though Coastal Construction failed to apply for a building permit before starting construction, there is plenty of blame to go around. "At the time the permit was issued, if the surveyor or the building official had told us, we've got this flood plain issue, it would have been a very easy issue to correct, even with the pilings in," added Jordan. That being said, the county building inspector tells WWAY it is the contractors' responsibility to know about changes to the flood plain and adapt building plans accordingly. By the time Coastal realized the new flood plains had a direct impact on this lot, construction was well underway. Coastal sent Pam Resch's husband a change order so they could reconfigure the house for the new flood plains. Mr. Resch signed it, but Pam said they were never told the changes entailed turning the entire bottom floor into storage space. The Resch’s sued Coastal Construction, and spent almost $250,000 preparing the lawsuit for court. But when Pam found out she might also have to pay Coastal's attorneys fees if she lost, she said she just couldn't afford the risk. Reluctantly, she settled out of court recently, and is having to live with a very expensive house, that isn't the one she wanted. Coastal Construction said they tried to resolve this dilemma before it moved into an expensive legal battle. That being said, Pam is not the only person who says she's run into problems with Mark Saunders. Other clients of his have contacted WWAY, saying he failed to obtain permits for other projects in a timely manor. In Pam's case, Brunswick County fined Coastal Construction for starting construction without a permit. The company is also under investigation by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. While this is an extreme case, you can run into some very big issues if you don't have the proper permits prior to construction. Don't assume your builder got the permits. Check for yourself at the county building inspectors office.

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