EXPOSED: Under the gun… Real Estate Consumers without OVERSIGHT of Real Estate “Professionals”

The Introduction to Washington State

I should have known there was a problem with the State of Washington when we were stopped in our Grand Caravan going through Eastern Washington driving slightly over the speed limit. We couldn’t see out the back of the van because it was packed with our belongings for the over 800 mile move from Wyoming. We were bleary eyed from the journey now in its last day. My eldest was driving and to keep ourselves awake we had the radio blaring.

It was some time before I became aware of the flashing lights behind us. “Hey Tristan, pull over.”

“What is the problem?”

“There is a cop behind us,” I told him as I looked in the rearview mirror. I watched the man get out of his patrol car and immediately saw him draw his weapon. I glanced in the back seat to see my two little ones fast asleep. I looked to see my dog raise her head and turned to see the three cats, secured in creates, stir.

He approached the car nervously. “Why didn’t you pull over?” he yelled in the car waking Zeb and Bronwen in the back.

I kept an eye on the gun that had now entered the driver’s side window. “We couldn’t see you officer,” I replied.

“You deaf?” He yelled again. His voice was hostile and shaking.

I glanced back as my two little ones eyes got big with alarm.

“We have been driving for 3 days, we had the music up to keep us awake. With the Wyoming plates and children and animals, isn’t it obvious that we are a family moving here?” I tried to ask him to get his brain engaged with the reality of the situation.

“Well you can never be sure,” he told me, still visibly shaking.

“Can you put the gun away? You are upsetting my children for no reason.”

Still not convinced, the officer held the gun a little tighter, “Let me see your hands, he demanded.

“Do you want my license and registration,” I tried to prompt him, “Can you put the gun down so I can get my information without being shot?”

As I reached for the glove compartment he barked at me, stopping me, “What are you doing?”

“Getting the information. I told you we are moving and I placed my wallet, insurance information and registration in the glove compartment for safe keeping.” I said as slowly and softly as I could.

“Slowly…” he told me.

I retrieved the information and handed it to the officer as my son showed the officer his hands, his pockets and reached to get his license as well.

“Where are you going?” he asked us rudely, still not lowering the gun from the driver’s side window. I heard my daughter whimper in the back seat.

“I have been hired to be the mental health therapist with Skagit County Drug Court” I told him as calmly as I could. “We were not aware of how fast we were going”, I told him apologetically, “and I am sorry. We have obviously upset you.”

It was then that he lowered his gun, “You would never believe what we encounter doing this work,”  he told me,  his voice visibly wrought with emotion.

“I can’t even imagine. Rest assured we have no intentions to do that to you”.

“I have to ticket you,” he said as he looked at Tristan almost apologetically.

“No worries”, Tristan replied as he handed the ticket to me.

“Just pay attention to what is happening around you” he told us.

“We will,” I reassured him very aware that we sat on a highway where there had been no passersby during our stop.

I watched him get in his car and pull ahead of us….

Trickle down unethical and illegal activities: Bankers and real estate “professionals”

So the feds have recognized the corrupt way that the banks have dealt with buyers? So what! That is just the tip of the iceberg.

As one of the few who has done everything by the book trying to meet obligations to crooked lenders; first at Golf Savings Bank, then Countrywide, Bank of America and now Fannie Mae who is now charged with picking up the pieces of the unscrupulous dealings in my case that have yet to be properly exposed.  I feel used and victimized by opportunists who have been allowed to side step rules and procedural safeguards.

It doesn’t stop with the banks. Instead there has been created a fertile environment that allows dubious practices of real estate “professionals” allowing them to feed off the blind funding of questionable loan applications. Such was my case.

In December of 2006, I flew from Sheridan, Wyoming to Seattle to do a whirlwind tour of interviews for a mental health/addictions therapist position. I had 2 interviews in Skagit County, 1 in Port Townsend and 1 in Seattle. During my time in Washington State, I arranged to work with a real estate agent to set up housing accommodations for myself, my 3 children, dog and cats in case I was offered a job. I owned a 3800 square foot home on an acre in Wyoming and would need flexible financing terms so that I would have time to sell my home there. My agent in Washington State ONLY showed me mobile homes despite my objections. He sent me to a loan officer at a local bank not believing my claims of having excellent credit. When the findings proved my assertion, we looked at a home in a rural part of the county. I placed a low bid on it but it that was rejected.  I was discouraged from making one any higher. The agent told me that the house needed a new well and that would be financially too demanding for my resources.

When he took me to look at an empty 4 bedroom home in town we passed an empty 5 bedroom home offered at a significantly lower price than the one that we were going to see. I told him that I would like to see the home. He told me that it could not be seen as it was under contract. I told him that I would like to put in an offer. He told me that I could not. Despite what I had been told then, with my house in short sale now, I have been encouraged to continue showing my home even though there is accepted offer and contract on the table. That, I have been told, could drive up the price and make it more likely to be accepted by my loan holder and collector, Seterus. Why the discrepancy in approach?

The home we finally arrived at had rudimentary appliances and an old furnace. I voiced my concern and was told that there were not many homes available in the area that I was interested in buying. Not knowing the market, and overwhelmed with the enormity of both job and house hunting in an area of the country I did not know, with limited time to make things happen, I felt compelled to listen to his advice.

The agent suggested a building inspector by the name of Keith Schenk  to do the inspection who passed the house with only a brief mention of some problems with the way the sinks were plumbed. The agent encouraged me to make an offer. I did and waited to hear the response. I had been offered a job nearby and was set to begin work January 1st 2007. I had to leave for Wyoming. It was December 10th 2006. I went home and began packing, awaiting a counter offer on the home my children and  I would occupy.

The kids and I were to be able to arrange to rent the home until the closing date on January 30 th of 2007. When the fax came with the owners response to my offer, I accommodated the counter offer, as per suggestion of my agent, and was under the impression that we were set to enter the home upon our arrival to Washington State. I would be wrong.

Just before leaving to move to Washington State on December 26, 2006, I received a call stating that the owners were concerned with the rental arrangements and wanted time to reconsider. My children and I got to Washington State December 31, 2006 essentially homeless and stayed that way for almost 3 weeks. I had difficulty finding hotels that would accommodate my pets and was out almost a couple thousand dollars when it was all said and done. I was not able to start my position on time and my children had to start school from a local hotel. I had my furniture coming by moving van and was forced to place them in storage.

We finally were allowed admission into the home. The day that we took possession as the  agent went to turn on the water at the street, the kids and I heard a hissing sound. A pipe burst on the incomplete back porch and was spraying water all over. We were not allowed to move in for another week while the former owners were allowed to come and fix the problem.

Plumbing

Within the first week or so it became apparent that the house had some significant plumbing issues outside the ones disclosed in the home inspection. The bath tub upstairs had old fixtures that broke off. At that point I could not direct water above to the shower head. When I opted to go downstairs to take a shower, standing in a pan that was barely big enough to accommodate me, I found another problem… After showering and turning off the water, water drained out the bottom of the wall toward the toilet. A call was made to the agent who again called the former owners. Lindolfo Fragoso, the former owner, was allowed to gerry rig the repairs yet again. My voiced concerns were belittled and I was told not to jeopardize the closing otherwise I would risk being homeless. Not once was I told that I could rescind my offer nor was I offered a different place to stay while the former owners were forced to pay for an appropriate licensed plumber to do the work.

On Easter Sunday 2007, I entered the shower upstairs and again had the old fixtures break off in my hand. That was now more than 6 years ago and the fixtures still do not work, nor has anything been done to remedy the problem, but I am getting ahead of myself… I went downstairs to shower and again experienced water draining from the wall. I called the agent, Jim Glackin of the Mount Vernon office of Windermere immediately.

“I am sorry” he told me, “I am at a barbecue. I cannot help you. You should call the inspector. He has insurance.”

It was a year and a half that my children and I lived without a functioning bathroom, in violation of the sales agreement while I struggled to expedite the sale of my home in Wyoming so that I could prop up what was beginning to look like a flip home of the worst kind.

My son developed a pilonodial cyst at the end of his spine. Then a 4.0 National Honor Society high schooler, he shut himself in his room for what would be, 2 and a half years. A strange a putrid smell filled the downstairs.

“Mom?” he called to me one afternoon when he emerged from the bathroom, “there is something wrong with me. Can you look at it?”

I took him in and had him bend over and there it was… a hole that tunneled from the base of his spine up towards another one about 5 centimeters above. Pus filled the cavity and was oozing. The area was beet red from him trying to sit comfortably without success.

We made an appointment to see a nurse practitioner friend and she diagnosed the condition and made a referral to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. There we were told that:

“This condition occurs in larger framed young men whose bodies are hairier. We often see this in men who cannot bathe frequently like young men in a war zone. We can excise the lesion, but it can often grow back. I suggest shaving the area and bathing very well directing a shower head to the affected lesion to cleanse and promote healing”.

My son was put on some antibiotics and I struggled to close on my home in Wyoming so I could get a shower put in so my son could be alleviated of his suffering.

After being blown off by the agent and building inspector who belittled my concern of possible mold arising from the leaking water from the wall, I took my complaint to the local BBB. In response the owner of the local agency in which the agent worked, backed his agent and dismissed my complaint as being without merit.

I then entered a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office who replied only that I should contact the Real Estate Disciplinary Board. I knew at that time that submitting anything there would amount to nothing and that was confirmed in Fall of 2012 when, depleted in financial reserves and facing, for the first time, being delinquent on my mortgage from hell, I submitted a complaint to the Board. They suggested that I hire an attorney.

Again, I am ahead of myself… I apologize.

When the money was received from the sale of my Wyoming home, I bought new appliances and took bids to fix the bathrooms. The bid was almost $5000.00 but when the time came to do the work, the downstairs shower remodel doubled in price…

In an email  from the owner at Stilly Valley Plumbing, who I hired to do the work, he summarized what he found in the work that he finally did for me…

“As I remember on your job we were called out to look at your plumbing as you were having some major problems with all your plumbing, both upper and lower baths.

We checked everything out and came up with a plan of fixing what we could see, knowing possibly there could be some more problems as we took down sheetrock etc. and uncovered the rest of the pipes in the wall.

 I quoted you a price to remodel both bathrooms and fix a few other issues as well. Because of your budget constraints at the time you advised me we should get the downstairs bath up and running first. Listed below are a few issues I remember running into. The first one I remember quite well as it was definitely plumbing at its worst.

 1- The Shower was leaking sewer out from under the pan after every usage. Once we tore out the old Shower base we found that the shower pan wasn’t properly connected to a p-trap per code. The pan was draining onto the concrete and running into a little concrete pit with a pipe stubbed up. There was no direct connect from the pan to the drain as should be. We then had to chip up concrete and add a p-trap and connect a new pan directly to sewer. In my opinion there was no way this could have gotten inspected as this surely wouldn’t have passed code.

 2-I remember that we had to fix the sink in the downstairs bath as well as there was some pretty good leaking going on there as well. I honestly don’t remember a 100% what we did to fix it just that we did.

3-Same thing with the toilet and washing machine, I don’t remember exactly what we did with the drain although I do remember setting a new toilet and re-doing the drain on the Washing machine. I was thinking it wasn’t vented correctly.

 4- I know we re-plumbed most of the piping under the kitchen sink as there were multiple leaks under the sink and I also remember there was plumbing of some sort on the other side of the kitchen sink that was on an un-insulated covered porch. As I remember there were some leaks or drips from freezing damage. I believe we cut and eliminated that plumbing.

 As for the upstairs bath I honestly don’t remember if we fixed anything there or not. I know you were on a very tight budget at the time. I do remember that the plumbing in your house was very un-professional looking and in my opinion actually looked more like something an inexperienced homeowner might do.”

 Electrical Problems

Since entering the home there had been unusual things happening with the electrical system as well. When any of us would go to plug into outlets, the outlets would not hold the plugs. They would fall out or wiggle and darken large portions of the home.

I invested in new appliances since the dishwasher was extremely old and less than reliable. I also bought a microwave and had it installed over my new double gas oven with 5 burners. The refrigerator was replaced so that I could have an ice maker. Within the first week the microwave blew out. With a year the burners on the stove began to fail to work consistently and then a power surge fried the ice maker in the refrigerator. The overhead lights both in the kitchen and out back below the uncompleted addition have repeatedly blown out.

Because the house is now in short sale, I needed to justify the lower than market price offers that were being received on the property. I called an electrician in March 2013 to ask him to assess the problems with the electrical system in the home.

“I need you to make a call to the company who provides you with electricity before I will come out” said the owner of Mount Vernon Electric.

I immediately made a call to Puget Sound Energy who sent a repairman out for a “partial power outage”. I called the day after to find out the problem.

“We found a fuse burned out on the transformer,” I was told.

I asked for a report so I could begin to identify where the electrical problem lie, with the shoddy internal work or a problems with the power company. They refused to send me a copy of the report.

The electrician came, charged me $75.00 to tell me that there was nothing wrong with the house. As far as I was concerned, he never did a thorough investigation because he heard that the power company had made a repair.

I continue to have power surges and symptoms of faulty electrical problems so I placed a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General who forwarded my complaint to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.

When PSE was contacted by the commission, a woman by the name of Vicki called me to arrange the placement of a meter to be set up to track the power coming into the home for one week. They found no problems. When I requested to be reimbursed for the multitude of problems encountered from the power surges PSE denied my claims.

Just today, while making waffles, a power surge fried the waffle maker. I still have NO idea what the problem is.

Heating

The old furnace broke down in the fall of 2008 and I bought a heat pump compatible high efficiency furnace. Barron heating was appalled when I told them that the building inspector passed the old Janitrol furnace. It is not clear if the electrical surges finally signaled the demise of the old unit but I do remember during surges that the furnace would try to click on over and over without success and did so the day it finally died.

 Structural issues

The back porch and addition, never well-constructed, is now decomposing. The stairs rock from side to side to the point that I am afraid to mount them. At one point the back door ended up not even being able to close and lock. A  general contractor rehung the back door so that the wind would not force it open anymore. (I had been holding it closed with a rock). The front door now does not stay shut and needs to be bolted to stay closed.

When I tried to justify the low bid now in front of Seterus, the loan holder for Fannie Mae, I brought in Rainy Day Basements who told my fiancé and I that the back door was cut out of the foundation and that the addition never had appropriate footings. The weight of the structure is pulling it away from the house structure itself. If not properly taken care of, the roof will soon have problems… There is a noticeable crack between the roof and the main house and two of the beams supporting the addition have visibly bent. They are not the appropriate size for the load that they support.

The front porch and concrete were poured after the original structure was built and now are leaning away from the house structure causing a noticeable gap.

Our dishwasher sits in the corner of the house where the addition is pulling away from the main structure. It has popped off its front face. No one will explain whether this phenomena is due to the pulling on the structure despite the fact that there are also drawers that have popped their faces and issues with the front and back doors closing properly.

Summing it up

I have been forced to pay a mortgage of over $1900/mo. and was one of the first to request a loan modification from then, Bank of America. I have a long trail of paperwork spanning

the years since my purchase of the property. I finally had my complaints forwarded to the feds at the Office of the Thrift by the Attorney General of the State of Washington after repeatedly contacting them and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I thought that a reduction in principle would justify my continued fight to stay in my home despite the ever increasing evidence of its barely livable condition. It was only because of their looking into the case that the loan modification was granted. The problem is that I signed
something that only prolonged my agony, paying still almost $1200 per month for a house that had been called “dangerous”.

With the economic meltdown, my finances have dried up. With the bleeding of my reserves for a home that continues to reveal continued a Pandora’s Box of horrors, I have paid my bills and not been able to clothe and feed my kids. I have documentation proving my visits to the local food bank since 2010. My last attempt to save the home came in September of 2012 to no avail. I secured attorney’s services and am engaged in a short sale. I am delinquent on my mortgage and HAVE NO INTEREST IN WASTING ANY MORE MONEY!

I bought the home as a zero down for $252,000 plus. It is now been assessed for $154,000 and that would have been if the home had been in livable condition. I had  a cash offer of $120,000 and the mortgage service company, Seterus, who is a contractor of Fannie Mae has come back with a $170,000 counter. The buyer would not raise his offer and so the deal was denied. I now have an ofer of $130,000 in front of Seterus and have tried to JUSTIFY the offer.

My civil suit and my short sale are intimately related in ways that the bank, real estate industry nor attorneys seem to be aware of. Maybe, quite frankly, they don’t give a damn. There is 6 years of documentation proving the home was shoddy. At the very least the seller, agent, agency and inspector were negligent. At the worst, they were engaged in fraudulent practice of securing funds from a bank that they had no right to. The bank then became the holder of a note on a piece of property that was not suitable to even sell.

My agent acted as the catalyst to the purchase, pushing me to make a bank deal on a substandard home and refusing to give me options early on when the systemic issues emerged. The buyer, the realtor, real estate agency and inspector benefitted, AND so did the bank.

Bank of America was the recipient of a hardship letter that itemized the problems with the home when the loan modification was secured. If Fannie Mae wants to recoup its loses, instead of denying the cash deal on the home, they need to make up the difference by going after the people who got away with passing this house off as marketable.

I played by the rules! I did not just run from my obligations as three of my close neighbors have. The 6 years of hellish living is not over. The feds will NOT let me be free of this nightmare. They bailed out big banks but are punishing those of us who have been victimized by the very system that THEY FOSTERED! Tell me, why doesn’t the feds go after the “professionals” who rode the coattails of big bankers, lining their pockets with every dime that I sweated and bled out these past 6 years while compensating me for
the substandard living and hardship faced by me and my children?

The lawsuit against Windermere, agent Jim Glackin and owner, Jim Scott

I stood in Snohomish County court on Monday June 3, 2013 with my attorney, Wesley Foreman. The case had been transferred out of Skagit County for the same reasons that I encountered when trying to find an attorney for the case back in 2007, conflict of interest. Everyone knows Jim Scott and I have had a relationship with the Superior Court judges in Skagit County having worked in drug and dependency courts.

I remember the day just about a month ago standing in the hall as the clerk scurried around trying to find a judge to sit and rule on the Motion to Dismiss submitted by Windermere’s high paid and well-seasoned attorney. No one would take the case and one by one they all recused themselves.

Commissioner Paxton approached the group assembled in front of the clerk’s office without seeing me, “How are you,” he asked as he flashed his biggest smile at Jim Scott as he embraced him.

“Wow” my fiancé said as he turned to me.

“Yup,” I said as I shook my head.

Standing in court there that day, June 3rd, we were at it again. I had repeatedly sent emails containing pertinent information to my attorney and the lead counsel, Chuck Greenberg: the BBB letter and the Attorney General letter summarizing my complaints were emphasized. Each email was read and charged at $150.00/hour. My efforts have all been in vain. In an email to Chuck Greenberg, the lead attorney on my case from Triad Law Group, I wrote:

Monday court was an eye opener. I have been thorough with the information that I submitted for Triad Law Group on this case, providing documents that provided legal argument that could have helped me. I have no idea why I have spent $5,250 because when the defense attorney stated that no discovery had been done and submitted for the court’s review, I felt robbed. When he stated that there was no evidence that Jim Glackin knew of the ongoing problems and insinuated that I had done nothing about the problem, I became angry. I have sent you a letter from 2007 (within the statute of limitations) to the BBB where both Jim Glackin and Jim Scott responded to my allegations. They both admitted  that I was told that I would be homeless if I continued to complain about the problems encountered in the house. That was never submitted into evidence. I sent a letter to the WA State Attorney General as well looking for help to deal with this issue and it was included in the portfolio. I felt smeared in this court hearing. When I stood up to clarify the matter before the court, I was silenced by the presiding judge. I HAVE WASTED MY MONEY AND DONE THE WORK THAT TRIAD LAW GROUP HAS FAILED TO USE TO ADVOCATE MY CASE! I am appalled! The precedent set going into the other cases is that I have no evidence. On the contrary, I have painstakingly amassed a tremendous amount of material that I continuously have tried to remind both of you and, to add insult to injury, was charged for your time. I KNEW THAT THESE ISSUES WOULD BE IMPORTANT GOING INTO COURT. I have not only lost this court hearing but I have also lost leverage by the stance taken through a serious lack of appropriate representation. Our cases against Schenk and Fragoso will be, AT BEST, an uphill battle! I haven’t gotten my money’s worth to date, and don’t know why I should continue to agree to such charges for the less than competent service that I have received.

I was being charged $150.00/hour to read emails and receive phone calls  regarding the documentation that I was constantly reminding you that would become pertinent in this case. Just like the call that the case should change venue, I was right about the importance of the documents. YOU CHOSE NOT TO SUBMIT ANY OF THE DOCUMENTATION THAT I AMASSED! For that reason,  I will not be continuing this legal battle and wish to sever ties with Triad Law Group. I need to be refunded the bulk of my fees, totaling $3250.

His response:

Nanaymie:

 I did speak with Wes at length about your situation. I am afraid that I don’t agree with your position.

 If you would like to meet, I would be happy to do so. I believe that there are some issues that you might not be aware of or familiar with and it might make sense to meet and clear the air.

 If that is not acceptable, you are free to contact the Bar Association. When I first discussed this case with you telephonically, I believed that you were in a good position. Frankly at that time, I hadn’t begun reviewing all of the documents and associated timelines and wasn’t thinking about the statute of limitations and how it may take away from your position. I did become concerned early on in our discussions when Mel started telling me that this claim was going to be assigned/sold and that quite a bit of money would be paid out, he also started talking about the claim like it was a foregone conclusion. I told him straight up that it’s not that easy. We had that kind of conversation two or three times.

 Later, as wes became involved and started spending time analyzing the details and issues, he became aware of this limitations issue and he later learned that the defendant was going to be making this argument.

Regarding the statute, there were some documents that-had they been submitted-would have taken away from our argument-and not bettered our chances.

 “In a motion to dismiss for violations of the statute of limitations, detailed evidence showing that you were aware of the issues relevant to the lawsuit long ago and yet chose not to sue at that time hurts your position.  Those documents do not toll the statute of limitations.  The relevant issues are when you learned of the problem, whether you waived your rights to make claims related to the problem, and when you sued. Wes and I discussed this thoroughly prior to the hearing, and we agreed that it would hurt to draw attention to the fact that you brought up all of these issues at length well before you filed the lawsuit.”

 In any event, I believe that we appraised you as to the issues and the fact that the statute of limitations was a serious concern. So I don’t feel that we did anything wrong. I think that it is more a matter of you not fully understanding exactly was happening although wes indicates that he had a number of conversations with you to explain.

 Under the circumstances, I don’t think that what you said is fair or accurate. Needless to say, you are free to go to the Bar Association. Alternatively, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss. 

 Thanks, chuck

My counter:

My story was never heard so we will NEVER know how the information would have been viewed. You saw fit to keep the most important details out of the discussion. I have appeared and testified in court and have seen the expression Wes was emitting, that of a deer in headlights. He was not prepared to answer the questions brought to him. Bringing up Mel has NOTHING TO do with the issue of representation. I will NOT allow you to use him as your scapegoat to explain away the lack of appropriate service when I needed it the most!!! I could have tolerated a bad verdict but the lack of ANY explanation or argument to tangible questions brought by both the judge and opposing counsel is reprehensible!

It would have been more appropriate and ethical for you to ask to see the most pertinent material that we thought proved our case, review it back in January, then you let us know that there were issues that would make the case not worth pursuing. I would have paid the $2000.00 for that information alone! Instead you ran up the bill, charged us for communications for a case that, from your own assessment now (in hindsight) may not have been worth your time and my money. That is poor management at best! 

When law is cited as the foundation for judgments with no connection to reality, injustice abounds! People come to you traumatized from their experiences and you add insult to injury by not allowing them voice within court!  I need more and, quite frankly, so do many other clients you will encounter.

His last response:

Nanaymie: I disagree with what you said. If you want to meet I am perfectly willing to do that; obviously you are free to go to the Bar Association if you wish. Thanks, chuck

There is no justice in a system that oversees the practice of BIG business, even passing legislation to safeguard consumers, but refuses to  make any real efforts to put those ideals into action. In essence we have a deregulation of oversight but tout the fact that people are “given opportunity” to seek justice for unethical and illegal treatment. The constraints written in case law ensure that BIG business will survive, its success built on the backs of hardworking folks like you and me!