Home nearly explodes in house flip nightmare for one family

SAN DIEGO - A woman called Team 10 desperate to spread the word about what she called shoddy work on her home to save other families money, headaches, and maybe even their lives.

Mary Evans bought a flipped home for her family in Escondido in May, and the home ended up having what she called hidden dangers, including a cut gas pipe improperly shoved behind a wall.

Contractor Mike Bartholomew said he can't believe what he found after Evans called him to help fix the issue.

"Frankly this could be a different story altogether," said Bartholomew, owner of Independent Restoration Professionals. "We could be standing on a smoldering pile of rubble talking about the good people that used to live here."

A flipped home is when someone buys a house that needs work, renovates it and sells it quickly for a profit.

Evans said she discovered the danger after smelling gas. She called San Diego Gas & Electric. When a technician came to her home, a leak was detected and the gas was shut off.

"Somebody had cut a gas pipe and shoved drywall putty into the pipe, pressed it up against the wall and held it there with a crooked nail," she said.

Bartholomew said the unsealed pipe was next to the water heater.

"Any little leak out of that gas could have been ignited by the pilot light on the water heater and you would have been an explosion," said Bartholomew.

Bartholomew also found electrical problems and a water leak inside the flipped home.

Evans tried to find the name of the contractor who worked on the flip but no one would tell her.

"I don't know if they have permits or if they were licensed," said Evans.

Team 10 checked with the city of Escondido and discovered no permits were filed for work done during the flip, so the only way to find out the contractor's name is through the seller.

The Department of Real Estate told Team 10 the seller is ultimately liable for the work done on the home.

When contacted by phone, the seller would not name the contractor, so Team 10 went to the seller’s home. The seller’s husband talked to us outside. Records show he's been involved in several real estate transactions with his wife.

He admitted he worked on cabinets in the home during the flip. He also refused to name the contractor who worked on the flip.

This means Evans still doesn't know who did the work on her home.

"I become concerned that maybe there are other houses that people are considering buying that have cut lines, that have lines that aren't properly grounded that have other problems and other families are in danger," said Evans.

Bartholomew says your number one protection is to find out who worked on the property, before you buy.

"Ask a lot of questions about the contractor that did the work. Specifically, were permits pulled for this work. Can you show me the permits," said Bartholomew.

The Department of Real Estate lays ultimate responsibility on work performed on a flipped home with the seller. The state agency offers ways buyers can protect themselves.

Buyers should request a transfer disclosure statement and also a seller property questionnaire, according to the department’s website.

The questionnaire is a form that contains very specific questions about what was done to the property.

"If at any time during that process, either the seller or the agent refuses to give you answers, then it may be in your best interest maybe to cancel the property and look for another one," said Veronica Kilpatrick with the Department of Real Estate.

Consumers also can file a complaint. If the seller’s agent knew about dangers and didn't disclose them, the Department of Real Estate will investigate.

That's too late for Evans, and now her only option is court. She told Team 10 she can't afford an attorney.

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