TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Huggins family loved the backyard in their new home on East Osborne Avenue in Tampa and its location across the street from a church, but they claim the old adage location, location, location devolved into problem after problem.
First, the undisclosed termites.
Joe Mendoza conducted the wood destroying organism (WDO) report in March and stated the home was termite-free, but it was later discovered he was not a licensed exterminator.
By the time Army veteran Jonah Huggins and his wife moved into their new home, the bugs had already moved in.
“Termites just swarmed from everywhere,” Huggins said.
Huggins, who served in Afghanistan, used a VA-backed loan to buy the house. A VA spokesperson said the agency does not check on licensing of exterminators but expects its lending partners to do that.
“No comment,” Mendoza said when asked about the paperwork.
Huggins’ mortgage broker has not responded to a request for comment.
“He said I can pay it later,” Huggins said.
Huggins said Magnum Pest Control has since fumigated the house with the company owner saying he “wanted to do the right thing.”
Mendoza has since been fined $9,000 by the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Huggins, who still has no idea how bad the termite damage is, was even more shocked when he tried to use the bathroom.
“After flush number three or four sewage came from the shower and underneath the toilet in both bathrooms,” Huggins said.
The seller’s disclosures stated the house was connected to city sewage but a plumber hired by Huggins discovered the first floor was tied to a collapsed septic system.
The floor had to be jackhammered and the pipes replaced all the way to the street.
“Honestly, I’m embarrassed that this would happen,” Huggins said. “I kind of thought that home inspector would protect me from this sort of thing or that this would be divulged.”
Darlene Allen, the owner of SDA Enterprises, LLC sold the home to Huggins, told 8 On Your Side she did not know about the septic system or the termites.
But 8 On Your Side obtained a WDO report from January that stated there was evidence of termite damage and Allen acknowledged she owned the house when that document was signed.
“I don’t know about that [WDO] report,” she said.
Huggins has filed a lawsuit alleging fraudulent non-disclosure and negligence.
His attorney Alex Mindrup said it’s difficult to believe the owners did not know about the termites and the septic.
“They owned it for two years while they were flipping it,” Mindrup said. “We believe they knew.”
He said the home would’ve been tough to sell if the septic and termite issues were disclosed.
“But if you don’t disclose it you might be able to sell it to someone like my clients,” Mindrup said.
Huggins said the turmoil has made the home unliveable for his family.
“It was just a shock to me and my wife,” Huggins said. “We’re done.”
He said he has spent more than $30,000 and the lawsuit is asking the court to order Allen to buy back the home.
Huggins is also seeking damages from Allen’s realtor Laura Keyes and her broker Dalton Wade, who are also named in the lawsuit. Keyes has not returned multiple requests for comment. Someone who answered the phone at Dalton Wade said he was advised “not to comment,” shortly before hanging up the phone.