Taking Action, Getting Results: Falling home gets fixed

Posted at 7:31 PM, Feb 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-07 19:31:09-05

The Norfolk home is beautiful on the outside, but it’s what is on the inside that worries owner Rosa Dowling.

“I was afraid to go to sleep at night,” Dowling tells NewsChannel 3. “I felt like it would begin to collapse.”

For the past 10 years, Rosa says the structural integrity of her house slowly withered away.

“The doorways are slanted, there is a space between the ceiling and the cabinets, and it looks like the room is separating from each other,” said Dowling.

She even put a wooden board underneath her fridge to keep it upright, since the kitchen floor dips drastically into the living room.

“Am I safe in here? I don’t feel safe myself,” said Dowling.

The home, built back in the 1920s, aged over the years, but Rosa says it’s not time that caused these problems.

“Instead of making my house better, they made it dangerous,” said Dowling.

Rosa says all her problems started after the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, or NRHA, hired two different companies to do work on her home, the first in 2002, and the second in 2008.

Both contracts included work in her crawl space, replacing or repairing damaged floor joists.

“I assumed they knew what they were doing. They knew more about construction than I did, and if they said I needed new joists, okay,” said Dowling. “About a year later, I began to see problems. Instead of it being stable, it seemed to drop more and more.”

NRHA instructs all their homeowners to call the contractor if problems arise, but Rosa says the company who did the work in 2008 went out of business.

So she tried to go to NRHA for help.

“I called, went down to office, spoke with many people time and again,” said Dowling. “Each time I’m told the same thing: that I have to wait, that there is no funding. Why do you tell me wait, wait, wait… what am I waiting for, the house to fall in?

So this past fall, Rosa came to NewsChannel 3, asking us to take action.

“I always saw how you helped other people, so I thought maybe they could help me,” said Dowling.

We quickly got results.

After contacting NRHA on Ms. Dowling's behalf last November, they quickly sent out an inspection crew, who checked levels all around her home, and actually went underneath the house.

So what did they find?

“The framing of the chimney…it was over looked, point blank, it was overlooked,” said Kelly Davis, the Director of Residential Rehab Services for NRHA.

The organization admits that some work was missed, and the support for the joists in the living room, where Rosa's floor dips, could have been done better.

“If something was wrong on our part, we will come in and correct that,” said Davis.

NewsChannel 3 found even more…according to Rosa's 2008 contract with NRHA, it plainly states that contractors would level the floors and fix joists in her back bedroom, where the wall is starting to separate.

NRHA now admits that work was never done.

Cleve Chappel, their construction manager, tells NewsChannel3 the contracts were written incorrectly, and included work NRHA never meant to do.

We asked if in those cases, they have to go back and amend the contract.

“If there is any type of change, what we do is a change order,” said Davis.

NewsChannel 3 found out there was no change order in the contract.

When we asked why, Davis replied, “I was instructed that it was done appropriately,”

NRHA feels that regardless of what happened in the past, Rosa's home is in very stable condition.

Still, they are taking action to help ease Rosa's fears.

“Our main concern at this point is to fix what NRHA should have addressed the first time.”

Six months after Rosa first came to NewsChannel 3, construction crews showed up to her home Thursday morning and started work on her back room that was never fixed before.

Our cameras were rolling as it all took place.

“I am so relieved, I’m very happy,” said Dowling. “Thanks to NewsChannel 3, and you Laurie, I’m finally getting some help. I am getting good results.”