TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A pair of termite inspections offered opposite assessments for a Tampa home, and a disgruntled homebuyer claims the results from the first one were never disclosed.
The second inspection of the split-level on East Osborne Avenue was conducted by unlicensed exterminator Jose “Joe” Mendoza, who is now facing four felonies connected to falsified and forged wood-destroying organism (WDO) reports.
Realtor Laura Keyes, her broker Dalton Wade and the home seller Darlene Allen are being sued by Jonah Huggins, who bought the home for his family in April.
Huggins, an Army veteran who recently served in Afghanistan, has also filed a complaint against Keyes with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, alleging she committed fraud.
“Our game plan was to get married, go on our honeymoon, come here and start our family and everything was going to be perfect,” Huggins said. “Problem with it is after a couple of days, termites started swarming from everywhere.”
There are contradicting inspections tied to the property.
One from January indicated “visible evidence” of wood-destroying insects. Shortly after that inspection, a deal to buy the home fell through. A home inspection from that failed sale also stated there were signs of termites in the attic.
Another report from April indicated “no visible signs” of termites.
Records show Keyes was the seller’s realtor during both inspections and requested the second one that was conducted by Mendoza.
In his lawsuit, Huggins claims the termite issue was never disclosed. When asked why that wasn’t disclosed, Keyes was silent before driving away.
According to the Mendoza arrest warrant, “text messages showed that Mendoza worked multiple other jobs for Keyes,” including the home Huggins bought. According to a court document, Keyes said she did not know Mendoza was not licensed.
Huggins attorney Alex Mindrup alleges the sellers and Keyes purposely concealed the termite issue.
“They know if they disclose, they’re not going to be able to sell it for more or even be able to necessarily sell it,” Mindrup said.
Keyes, Wade and Allen deny the allegations in their response to Huggins lawsuit and have filed a motion to dismiss. Huggins is seeking damages and has asked the court to order the seller to buy the home back from him.
In addition to the claims about the termite issues, Huggins also alleges the seller did not disclose the bottom floor of the home was connected to a failed septic system. According to Huggins, connecting the home to the city sewerage system has cost close to $20,000.
Defense attorney Shawn M. Yesner said in an email, “given that this litigation is currently pending, I am unable to comment further.”