WSAZ Investigates | Title Trouble

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The June 2016 flooding that destroyed homes across West Virginia is still a fresh memory for many people almost six years later.

That tragic day is something Clifford White thinks of every day while dealing with problems at his house that was rebuilt as part of the RISE flood recovery program. After searching for answers, White said he reached out to WSAZ, hoping that we could make a difference to find a solution.

For 52 years, White and his family have lived on property along Abbott Road in the Clendenin area. In 2016, their home was one of many destroyed by historic flooding.

RISE West Virginia is the program the state created to help rebuild those flooded homes, including the Whites’. But now White is not sure if that new home is still his because he has not been to get a title.

“We don’t want to have something and not have a title to it,” White said. “And pay taxes and stuff and then somebody come in and take it.”

Construction of White’s new home wrapped up in August 2018. As part of that contract, he said he was not allowed to change or sell the home for three years.

But since those three years passed, in September 2021, White went to finally take full ownership and get the title. However, he was shocked to learn there was a major roadblock in his way in the form of a lien.

“We didn’t get no loan,” White said when asked his reaction to learning about the lien. “I mean, usually you have to get a loan or borrow money to have a lien on your home. How does that work?”

White said he could not get any answers from RISE about what the lien was for or how much money it was. When he tried to get an explanation, he said he was only told is there is an issue with paperwork. White says it’s a situation that has frustrated him.

“We don’t matter,” he said. “Our opinion does not matter. That’s the way it makes me feel.”

White said he hasn’t had any issues with his house beyond getting the title from RISE – a holdup he says was caused by the lien.

During the past few months, White has made multiple phone calls to RISE and the state Division of Motor Vehicles, attempting to get that title. But he’s still not able to get this issue resolved.

So, WSAZ started looking for answers to solve this problem for White by looking for things that could have created a lien. One of those is not paying his taxes. However, we found the Kanawha County Sheriff’s tax office says the White family has never been late on paying their taxes.

WSAZ then went to the County Clerk’s records room where any liens would be filed. When he looked up their property, all he could find was the deed and RISE contract. Once again, no lien that would prevent white from getting a title.

“Getting a title, it’s like a crime,” White said.

We then reached out to RISE, requesting an interview and looking for a solution to this problem. After multiple emails and phone calls, a RISE spokesperson told us the issue was between the company that constructed White’s house, Thompson Construction, and the DMV.

Finally on Thursday afternoon, the RISE spokesperson told us in an email, “The Whites have been notified they will receive their paperwork by overnight mail tomorrow.”

The spokesperson went on to say, “thank you for bringing this situation to our attention so we were able to resolve it.”

We were there as the title the Whites have been waiting months for arrived on Friday. Clifford said it was a day he didn’t think would come, but he’s thrilled to be able to move forward.

“I am very pleased it’s over with,” he said. “I don’t want to talk with them, don’t want them bothering us. As far as I am concerned, it’s finished.”

White went on to say he doesn’t think a solution would have come if we didn’t start digging for answers.

“After we got you all, you see how quickly we got a title,” he said.

We asked RISE for clarification on what caused this issue and how it can be prevented in the future. A spokesperson said it’s a long process to get a title that’s susceptible to administrative delays.

In addition, RISE said it is working with the builders and state agencies to address these issues. It went on to say this is not a common problem but could happen to other homeowners when they’re trying to get a title for their house.

Any other homeowner in a similar situation would need to contact their case manager for the program.

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