WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) – Seth Vermillion can stand in between his home and his neighbor’s home and touch both houses.

The company hired to build his home, Orlando-based Avex Homes, built a spec home just 6 feet away from Vermillion’s house in the new Avalon Park West neighborhood inside Wesley Chapels Cypress Village community.

Pasco County Building Code requires these two homes to have at least 10 feet in between them.

“At first, we thought it just felt closer than it really was,” Vermillion said. “They just kept building and then we measured the distance between the home and knew something was not right.”

Vermillion and his wife, Rachel raised their concerns to Pasco County building officials a year ago. County staff visited the home on Harmony Oaks Road and confirmed the Vermillion’s suspicion: the home next door is 4 feet too close.

The close proximity brings up fire and safety concerns, quality of life issues and it simply goes against county code, meaning the builder cannot get a final inspection on the home and cannot sell the house as it is now.

In March 2007, county officials issued an emergency stop-work order on the house. It’s now used for storage for building materials in the neighborhood. At the time, the county told the builder to figure something out with the Vermillions. But that never happened, so the couple turned to Better Call Behnken for help.

Avex President Eric Marks says he admits his company dropped the ball and that the blunder is a result of a “series of mistakes.”

“It started with the survey company,” Marks said. “Our people on the ground didn’t catch it, and the county didn’t catch it.”

Marks said the company has three choices:

  • They can tear down the house and start over.
  • They can offer a settlement to the Vermillions to cover the devaluation of their home. In exchange, the couple would sign a variance to allow the home to stay where it is. This option, however, would require Avex to close in all windows on the side that faces the Vermillion home and not add a fire protection barrier.
  • They can chop four feet off the home to make it compliant with county codes.

Mark has chosen to modify the home by 4 feet, which means the windows would need to be shifted and the roof pitch would be redesigned.

“I think if we would have never said anything…(nothing) would have ever been done,” said Rachel. “I think they would have just sold it like there was no problem and just swept it under the rug.”

Poor measuring wasn’t the company’s only blunder. At the last minute, the builder decided to flip the floor plan. The plan approved by the county had a driveway in between the house and the Vermillion home.

Flipping the house plan caused the windows—including the bathroom window—to line up perfectly with the windows in the Vermillion home because the houses are the same floor plan, but flipped.

“We could probably toss toilet paper back and forth to each other,” Rebecca Vermillion said.

But Avex isn’t the only party at fault. It is the job of county inspectors to catch this type of mistake.

Assistant County Administrator Don Rosenthal said the county “takes responsibility” for missing this. Inspectors had multiple chances to spot the problem before Avex was able to complete the outside of the home.

Rosenthal said the county was under the understanding that Avex was working out the situation with the builder.

“Now that we know that hasn’t happened, we will get involved again,” Rosenthal said.

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