Newly built homes deemed unlivable due to sliding soil
Dec 1, 2022, 10:53 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2022, 11:54 am
DRAPER, Utah. — If you want to know what a sinking home sounds like, just ask Eric and Carole Kamradt.
“Can you imagine somebody hitting a baseball, solid, with a nice, wooden bat,” Eric described. “Big huge crack. That’s what I would hear.”
The sounds of his brand-new home cracking echoed day and night, while lying in bed, or trying to work from home.
“It made me think of a two-by-four snapping in half,” Eric said.
The Kamradts moved into their new home in the Hidden Canyon Estates development in Draper in December 2021. It’s a development by Edge Homes.
Two months later, Carole said she noticed the first signs of damage.
“I just thought, that’s weird, a new build, the sidewalk shouldn’t be cracking, even as cold as it gets up here,” Carole mused.
That sidewalk crack evolved into cracks in the garage, the walls around doors and windows, and their basement.
Eric said Edge Homes came out to measure the movement as the damage worsened. “They’re actually measuring the ceiling, and they do it week after week,” he explained. “They can see movement, so we know the house is sinking. Plus, you can go outside on the back side of the house where we have a deck off the master [bedroom] and the pillars are separated as much as four inches.”
Eric said there was a corner of the house that had sunk approximately 10 inches. “When you walk, for instance, in my primary closet, it’s kind of like leaning, like you’re in a funhouse or something.”
Edge Homes installed four helical piers under the home, digging down to bedrock to stabilize the home. But Eric said inclinometers in the soil show the house is shifting sideways.
“The ground is still moving that way at 34 feet underneath our house,” Eric said.
Paying a mortgage on a home in which they cannot live
When Draper City was alerted to the problem back in May, Carole said they told her she may be evicted.
“Draper City first approached us about how bad the movement was, and said, ‘Prepare for us to just one day show up and kick you out. So, you better start packing,’” Carole recalled.
That day finally came in late October, when both the Kamradts home, and their next-door neighbor’s home, had their certificates of occupancy revoked. Draper City officials told us by email “the residences were inspected and determined not to meet building code.”
“We had a week to find a place to go pack up and move. One week,” said Carole. “We found a place to rent and had an agreement with the builder to pay for our rental and for storage for what we couldn’t fit into the rental. Part of the rental agreement stated that we would give up our right to sue, or we would have to pay back all of what they had paid for the rental and movers. We refused to sign that – so we are currently paying for our house and our rent at the same time.”
The Kamradts said they didn’t expect any of this to happen as they built their dream home in this pre-planned neighborhood.
“I found this perfect lot, perfect view,” mused Carole. “The timing was amazing, and we built the house. This was going to be our last house, never have to move again.”
Battle between builder and inspectors
KSL Investigators requested emails about the Hidden Canyon Estates Phase 5 through a public records request.
In June, Draper building officials sent an email to Edge Homes indicating they had begun investigating the sinking homes, and there were “definite signs of [retention] wall and slope failure.”
For months, Draper and Edge Homes went back and forth about the proper fix. After a “heated” meeting in October, Edge proposed fixes to the properties, that Draper decided “still does not sufficiently address” code violations related to dangerous structures. This was detailed in an email dated Nov. 2 from the city to Edge Homes and a third-party engineering firm.
In that same email from Draper building official Keith Collier, he wrote “the homes are considered unsafe until at such points outlined previously are addressed, reviewed, and verified, and found to be compliant with the code and concerns for the life safety of the residents.”
KSL Investigators learned that Edge submitted another proposed fix for the Kamradts home today, with a plan for their neighbor’s home expected “soon.” A Draper spokesperson told us “The City just received this, so it hasn’t been reviewed and evaluated for viability yet.”
In response to our questions, Edge Homes sent KSL a written statement from President Gordy Jones, reading in part: “we have worked diligently with the homeowners and Draper City to identify the cause of the problems and determine the appropriate permanent remedy.”
The statement continued, “At the present time, we are finalizing engineered plans to perform permanent remedies to ensure no additional shifting or settlement will occur in the future, and to fix the existing damage to the physical structures and components of the homes…. In short, we are doing everything we reasonably can to resolve the issues and be fair to the homeowners.”
Jones also wrote that Edge Homes was “disappointed” by and “disagree with” Draper’s decision to evict the families, writing, “The independent experts had confirmed the homes were structurally sound and that the helical piers we installed effectively stopped the homes from additional settlement/movement.”
The full statement can be read here.
For now, the Kamradts must stay out. Carole holds out hope that one day, she will be able to move back into their dream home.
“I can’t give away that hope,” she expressed. “It’s too depressing to think that we would have to start all over with something else.”
Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at email@example.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.