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Columbia Heights Homebuyer Fights ‘Predatory Remodeling’

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Frost Simula calls himself the poster child for what’s call “predatory remodeling” and now he’s talking about his fight to protect others.

Just days after Simula bought his house in Columbia Heights, he discovered dozens of serious problems. But an inspector already signed off and he had signed a disclosure waiver limiting his legal options.

He paid $174,000 for his Columbia Heights home. He could have to spend another $100,000 just to be able to stay in it.

“When I thought we had a solid list of all of these problems, it just keeps growing and growing,” Simula said.

The list: A load-bearing wall and pillar had been removed, the plumbing didn’t work in both bathrooms and the cable and outlets set up throughout the house didn’t have the wires to make them work.

Now, Simula is vowing to change the law so more homeowners won’t have the same headache.

“It’s my goal to go to every level of government, starting from my city, to the county, to the state, to make sure that we set laws up to make sure the consumer is protected,” Simula said. “When people hear my story they’ll ask, ‘why isn’t there a lemon law for houses?’”

Some metropolitan areas have cracked down on house flipping and, in some cases, require homeowners to own a property for two years before they can sell.

Frost launched “Residential Remodeling Regulatory Reform” on Facebook, sharing stories of shady contracting work and what consumers can legally do.

In the meantime, Simula is scrambling to figure out his next move. The city inspector told Frost unless he gets the structural issues fixed by the first snowfall, his home might be off limits.

For anyone else looking to buy, Frost says pay attention to transaction time, look up old pictures and listen to your gut.

“If you’re still nervous, walk away. There are many, many, many houses out there. Just walk away from one that doesn’t feel good to you,” Simula said.

Frost is still getting bids to figure out an exact dollar amount on damages. When he does, he has an attorney and they plan to go after the people who did the work and sold the place. He doesn’t expect it to get very far because of that disclosure waiver, but he says it’s a matter of principal.

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