Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By Steve Huffman
A lawsuit has been filed alleging that real estate agents and others misrepresented a house in Spencer that was sold last fall, then found to be infested with bats.
Harold A. Scheve and Tracee Scheve filed the lawsuit May 22 in Rowan County Superior Court. They purchased the house at 209 8th St. last November, then vacated the property in April after learning of the bat problem.
Named as defendants in the suit are Henry H. Coffield and Katherine A. Coffield, Rowan Realty, Heather Gurley, RE/MAX Leading Edge Realty and Wendy Measimer.
The Coffields are the previous owners of the property while the other defendants are either real estate agents or real estate firms involved in the sale.
Each of the defendants either declined comment or didn’t return phone calls to the Post Wednesday. The lawsuit was filed by High Point attorney Shelby V. Schurman.
The plaintiffs have 30 days from the date of the lawsuit’s filing to respond.
In the suit, the Scheves are seeking more than $10,000 in damages plus attorney fees.
The suit makes a litany of allegations including:
– Gurley, the buyers’ agent, asked the Scheves on more than one occasion: “Why would you waste $300 on an inspection when you are buying the house ‘as is?’ ”
– An inspection by Bill’s Exterminating done prior to the sale revealed past problems with beetle infestation, a high reading of moisture content in the crawl space and recommended that debris from the crawl space be removed and a poly vapor moisture barrier be installed. Gurley told plaintiffs not to worry about the moisture and that repairs would have to be paid by the plaintiffs.
– Animal Capture and Exclusion Services ó ACES ó was called on April 4, 2007, after neighbors told the Scheves of an ongoing bat problem in the house.
– Inspectors with ACES found a heavy infestation of bats, including Little Brown Bats, Large Brown Bats, Pipistrelle Bats and Silver-Haired Bats. The soffit, fascia and walls of the house were saturated with guano ó bat feces ó and active clusters of several colonies of bats.
According to ACES, abatement and exclusion of bats and cleanup would involve extensive removal of soffit along the perimeter of the roofline. Some facial boards and roofing would also have to be removed.
In addition, one interior wall would have to be torn out since occupants heard the bats all the way down to the baseboards. All dropped ceilings would have to be taken down to remove bat guano and the carcasses of bats that were trapped and died between ceiling areas.
– ACES found bat lice and bat ticks in the crawl space.
– ACES strongly recommended that the house be vacated due to the health hazards associated with guano. The company further advised that the “sparkling dust” in the house was undigested insect wings, a direct result of a continuing bat infestation.
In addition, the house was swabbed five times for e-coli and all the swabs came back with a positive test result.
– Further testing by ACES revealed “ceilings sagging from tons of guano … padlocks on the main entrance to the attic that had to be cut off with bolt cutters … stains on the ceiling being the result of bat urine and dead, rotted bats.”
– According to the suit, the plaintiff asked Gurley why the front porch ceiling was sagging and was told it was due to water damage that had been fixed. “The sagging was a direct (result) of tons of bat guano,” the suit reads.
– The suit further alleges that neighbors Libby and Wayne Brown told Henry Coffield on several occasions about the bats and asked him to do something about them. “Defendant never took care of the problem. Mr. Brown took the initiative to plug one of the holes on the property with a stick so his cats would not be able to catch the bats and put them on his porch.”
According to the suit, the house sold for $47,500 last fall. Of that amount, the $2,950 commission was divided equally between real estate agents Measimer and Gurley.
The lawsuit continues that:
– “Defendants made an intentional misrepresentation of material facts when defendants answered no to problems with present infestation.”
– “Defendants also intentionally concealed a material fact when defendants used various means to cover up 30-plus years of damage done by bat infestation and concealed the bat infestation.”
– “The intentional misrepresentation and intentional concealment of a material fact was calculated to deceive.”
– “The false representation and concealment was done with the intent to deceive plaintiffs into purchasing the property.
According to information previously reported by the Post, workers with ACES have estimated the cost of removing the bats at $6,000. Cleaning out the guano, tearing out the walls, repairing damage, fixing the roof and making the house bat-tight is figured at $22,000.
Getting rid of bats is not a simple task. The creatures are protected, meaning they can be excluded but not killed.
Neighbors of the Scheves have complained to Spencer officials about the prospect of that many bats being excluded and going immediately in search of new habitats. Spencer town leaders have refused to become involved in the controversy.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.