Woman fighting for repairs to have home rebuilt after 2016 flood

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 7:12 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Ladema Shafer’s home was destroyed when flood waters rapidly rose in Clendenin, West Virginia, in June 2016.

More than four years later, she is still fighting for a proper home to live in because the house rebuilt for her by the RISE flood recovery program has had a number of problems since it was completed in January of this year.

“It was shortcuts they took, and they think, I guess, that an old woman is stupid," Shafer said. "But I wasn’t. I seen all this mess, and that’s the reason I called you all.”

The 80-year-old Shafer said she’s experienced 12 leaks, holes in the roof and gaps in the siding. Any time it rains, Shafer said water surrounds her home and floods under her porch due to a lack of drainage.

“I appreciate the new trailer," Shafer said. "I appreciate what the federal government has done and is paying for, but the people is not getting what the federal government is paying for.”

Shafer’s house was built by South Carolina company Thompson Construction Group, according to West Virginia VOAD. A WSAZ investigation in October 2019 found Thompson was overcharging the state for work, and RISE agreed. Following the investigation, RISE asked for more local contractors to bid on the RISE construction projects, giving the state more options and Thompson more competition.

Since Shafer’s home was already awarded to Thompson, RISE said it’s up to the construction group and the subcontractors it hires to make repairs on Shafer’s house under its one-year warranty. The West Virginia National Guard, which oversees RISE, said it received its first warranty claim on Shafer’s house in March.

“They come up here and drove nails through the roof shingles, through the top of them,” Shafer said about how the contractor handled her warranty claim. “Then, they came back just a week or so ago and tarred them. So they tried to cover up their mess.”

The West Virginia National Guard could only tell WSAZ it had records of several visits back to the home by Thompson’s subcontractors, but when reporters asked for a copy of those visit records, they were told Thompson had not given permission and to file a Freedom of Information Act request. WSAZ filed that request and is waiting for a response from the state.

West Virginia State Resiliency Coordinator Bobby Cales said every home completed by RISE has a one-year warranty. It is treated as a contract between the homeowner and contractor, and the state only steps in when there is a dispute.

“You are going to see (warranty claims) in the construction world when you are dealing with a warranty issue and homes that have problems,” Cales said. “Contractors honor those situations. I’ve never had a situation where the contractor did not honor their warranty in the one-year period.”

Warranty claims should be filed if there is a defect with an item in the home or there is something wrong with the home that the general contractor should be responsible for fixing, Cales said.

“They should contact their VOAD case manager, who will in turn contact the construction team who will go out and inspect the site and the warranty work that has been done to come to a resolution on the issue," Cales said.

Shafer does not dispute the visits to her home, but said all problems have not been solved. On Friday morning, WSAZ crews were at Shafer’s house when a National Guard inspection crew arrived just a day after we called and asked about the those problems. The visit was not scheduled before the WSAZ inquiry.

The National Guard said its policy is to visit any home within 48 hours of being notified of the problem. Cales said the visit often includes the creation of a to-do list of things that must be fixed to pass inspection. RISE members said they created that list for Shafer’s home on Friday.

“The construction management team is a well-trained team to go out and do the construction of the home during the construction and during final inspection to make sure the state’s dollars are being wisely used," Cales said.

The RISE team that visited Shafer’s house on Friday said it will report the problems to Thompson and ensure work is started within a week.

RISE said only 13 percent of completed homes have warranty claims filed on them. WSAZ asked how many of those warranty claim houses were constructed by Thompson and is awaiting a response.

“I just want to live in a house," Shafer said. "My golden years as they call them, so far they haven’t been very golden. I want them to finish my house right so I won’t have any more leaks and no more aggravation from it.”

Anyone with a problem is asked to contact RISE before fixing it themselves to prevent the warranty from being broken.

WSAZ reached out to Thompson Construction Group for comment multiple times for this story and did not receive a response.

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