08/26/04 — Magistrate moves against home owner

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Magistrate moves against home owner

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 26, 2004 2:01 PM

A Wayne County magistrate ruled Wednesday that Quality Homes and Sherwood Daly were not responsible for the sagging floor in James Potter's mobile home.

Potter appealed the ruling Wednesday afternoon, and the issue will now go before a District Court judge.

Magistrate Sandra Castle told Potter that though her heart was with him, the legal judgment was not in his favor.

Potter's mobile home off of Black Jack Church Road was a replacement for the one he owned when Hurricane Floyd ripped through Wayne County in 1999. It was bought with state and federal money as part of the "repair and replacement" program.

He was living on N.C. Highway 111 South when downed trees and floods forced him from his home. As part of the flood buyout program, the county bought him a new mobile home.

All Potter had to do was keep up the taxes and homeowner's insurance policy, which he says he has done. He also must live in the home for at least 10 years as part of the buyout program.

"That homeowner's (insurance) isn't cheap, and all I have is my Social Security income," he said. "But I've kept it up."

Potter noticed that the floor leading from his kitchen was sagging underneath him about two years ago and called Quality Homes to come repair the floor. The mobile home was manufactured by Horton Homes, but Quality Homes was the dealer Potter bought the home from.

Potter said that workers from Quality Homes have come out three times in the past year to fix the floor, but nothing worked. And he said that the insurance isn't covering the sagging floor, because the insurance company said it was a defect in the mobile home.

Potter first filed a claim against Mr. Daly, owner of Quality Homes, but was told by Magistrate Allen Jones that he would need to refile that claim naming Quality Homes as well.

Potter refiled the claim and said that within a week he was contacted by representatives from Horton Homes.

The mobile home manufacturer sent a crew from Anderson, S.C., to repair Potter's floor on Aug. 11.

"They cut a 25-inch hole in the floor and put some wood down and pulled the linoleum back over it," Potter said. "They said it wasn't damaged because of a trailer defect, but that the damage was caused because it had been exposed to moisture."

Potter maintained that the area was exposed to moisture because Quality Homes did not repair the problem correctly.

Daly said that the flooring was not resting on a stud, and that was what had caused the floor to sag.

"I don't deny there was a problem," Daly said. "We sent someone out to repair it because we were trying to remedy a problem."

Daly said he thought the problem had been fixed and didn't know that it wasn't fixed until Potter filed a claim against him.

Potter also said that when Horton Homes workers came out two weeks ago, they didn't repair the floor properly either.

"Now when you walk across it, it looks like you're walking across a picture frame," he said. "My complaint is that whole kitchen has been exposed to weather, and my floor isn't fixed."

He said he spoke with Horton Homes officials last week, and they told him they would be back to fix his floor, even though they maintained the damage wasn't caused by a manufacturing defect.

"I've been promised and promised that my floor would be fixed but it's not," Potter said. "All I want is my floor fixed."

Glenn Barfield, the lawyer for Daly and Quality Homes, explained that the mobile home industry was regulated by the Department of Insurance in North Carolina. Barfield produced a letter from the Department of Insurance which said it had twice sent Potter a complaint form that was never returned.

Potter said that he received the form, but that when he called the Department of Insurance back he was told not to fill out the form because the mobile home was more than a year old.

Daly said that if Potter had returned the form, the Department of Insurance would have set up a meeting between the manufacturer, the seller and the buyer.

"But that was never done," Daly said.

Barfield said that Quality Homes had gone above and beyond its duty in trying to fix the problem.

"Though I wasn't involved in the conversation with the Department of Insurance, I would be surprised that they would say not to return the forms," he said.

Barfield said that Potter wanted to point to the folks at Quality Homes, but he said they had done all that could be done.

Daly said that if Horton Homes officials told Potter they were coming back, then they would be back to fix it.

Magistrate Castle said that in her opinion Potter had not proved Quality Homes was responsible for the damage to the mobile home.

Potter filed an appeal in District Court to the ruling, saying he wanted his floor fixed properly.