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Home rehab loan saga continues

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 by Jo Clifton

After the publication of the Austin Monitor story describing problems facing some homeowners who took out loans under the city’s Home Rehabilitation Loan Program, the city responded. Rosie Truelove, the director of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department, said via email, “After our conversation … our team got together to make sure our process is as responsive to our clients’ concerns as possible.

“Obviously, the success of the HRLP relies upon maintaining a trusted relationship with our clients and committing to resolving any programmatic issues completely and quickly.”

One thing the department is doing, Truelove said, is communicating “with each of the clients that you have shared with us to work to fully resolve their concerns within the agreed-upon, contractual procedures.”

However, on Monday, District 1 homeowner Larry Pavia told the Monitor he had not gotten any relief from the problems he talked about when he was initially interviewed in April. Those problems included failure to level his house completely and failure to install new insulation.

The foundation of Pavia’s house is pier and beam. He said he had discovered that the contractor, Piatra Inc., had only installed piers under the front part of his house, so now the back part where they didn’t put any piers needs to be leveled, he said.

Pavia said he told them that “if you’re going to level the house, you can’t just partially lift it up. It’s going to go down. It’s just common sense.”

“And now they’re debating who’s going to have to pay for that,” Pavia said.

He noted that he had talked to a supervisor and to a person in the Office of the City Auditor about his problems, but he didn’t feel like the city or the contractor was going to take care of him in the end.

“I’m afraid I’m going to end up with the short end of the stick again.”

Pavia said the response from a city representative was that they would look at the report on the project.

“But if you leave it to the contractor, they’re not going to fix this,” he said. “To them, they’ve already done their job. But they’ve done a real lousy job.”

Mirela Glass, owner of Piatra, said that the house had been leveled correctly. However, she said that since the work was done, one corner of the house – the one that had not gotten new piers – had gotten out of sync with the rest. As to whether the company should have to fix that problem without additional payment, she said, “I put it in the hands of the (city) project manager.”

Pavia also said that the contractor was supposed to put in new insulation, but failed to do so. And he claimed that the contractor did a poor job on plumbing.

Glass said she had been working for the city for the last 11 years and that until a short time ago, she had never had anyone complain or seek arbitration. She blamed Janis Walker and Suzanne Janel, two other dissatisfied customers of the loan program, for the recent spike in complaints.

She said that giving the Pavia family new insulation was not part of the contract, so he should not complain when he didn’t get that. In addition, Glass said her company had done a number of things for Pavia that were not part of the contract, including fixing his plumbing. Pavia disputes that his plumbing was fixed, saying that the work on the kitchen sink was particularly shoddy.

As for Walker, after the city could not resolve the complaint she made against the contractor, Walker said she would seek arbitration, as required by her contract. That arbitration has not yet occurred, but NHCD employees will not speak with her until after that is over. She has filed a complaint with City Auditor Corrie Stokes.

Truelove also told the Monitor that departmental staff is “in the process of an internal review of contractor performance metrics to see what improvements and changes should be incorporated into the current and future solicitation and review of private contractors and experienced nonprofit organizations to provide home repair services.”

She said, “NHCD construction services staff has begun reaching out to all recent Home Rehabilitation Loan Program clients whose completed project is still under warranty to ensure they are satisfied with the work, or if there are issues that need to be resolved.”

Photo by Janis Walker.

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