Christie and Mike D’Andrea are rebuilding their lives after they lost their home.
“It's like having a house fire, you lose everything, its tragic,” said homeowner Christie D’Andrea.“You say your house is full of mold and you’ve lost everything people kind of look at you and go, what?”
The couple closed on a newly constructed $481,000 home on Birch Street in Pembroke in Dec. 2014.
They moved in on New Year’s Day and Mike proposed in the front yard. But their new beginning took a disastrous turn weeks later when they discovered mold in the attic and water in the basement.
“I just wish we had never bought it, it turned into such a nightmare,” said D’Andrea.“I wish we had never found the listing. I wish we never embarked on this.”
The D’Andrea’s moved out of the house earlier this year.
They were having health issues they blamed on toxic mold exposure. Mike said he had lost sixty pounds and Christie complained of numbness in her hands and arms. They say their doctor advised them to move out and take nothing with them.
“It’s like a mausoleum, our clothes are still hanging in the closet,” said Christie. “Our memorabilia is still under the beds, wedding pictures are still on the walls.”
The D’Andrea’s say they discovered that the Pembroke Conservation Committee had issued an Order of Conditions on the property when the town sold the land. The house, which sits next to wetlands, was to be built above the seasonal high water table. But they say it wasn’t.
“Water flows into the basement every time we have melting snow or a couple of days after it rains,” said Christie. “Water seeps up from the water table because there is nowhere for it to go. The house sits in it.”
“It creates a chronic state of humidity,” said Mike.
Town Administrator Ed Thorne blames the builder, Tracy White of Hemlock Homes LLC.
“The whole thing boiled down to the fact that the developer didn’t follow the plan that was part of the sale of the property,” said Thorne. “I don’t believe that the building department knew that the foundation was lower than what was originally designed by our septic engineer.”
When asked if the town missed anything, Thorne said, "no."
The D’Andrea’s house was condemned by the town in March due to chronic dampness. They worried about Mike’s mother, who lived next door, in a house that was built by at the same time by the same developer.
“About a week after I had moved in there was a big rainstorm,” said Eileen Goguen. “I just had a gut feeling and went downstairs to take a look and there was a lot of water coming in the basement from the front of the house. There was black mold all over upholstered furniture, on the cardboard boxes, on the stairwell leading down to the basement.”
Goguen also moved out and says she has lingering health issues.
In 2015, the builder’s insurance company denied a claim for mold and the three filed a lawsuit, claiming a construction defect.
Tracy White’s attorney declined to issue a comment for this story given the ongoing litigation, but in a response to the lawsuit, denied allegations of any wrongdoing.
“It’s like I’m living a nightmare and I’m drowning and I can’t get out,” said Goguen. “I can’t go anywhere, I’m stuck with this sick house."
The D’Andrea’s home is listed for sale “as is” for investors and contractors, but they have contemplated foreclosure.
“We can’t live there and we can’t afford to maintain the home,” said Mike. "Our legal bills, our medical bills, life in general and maintaining the home that we can’t live in and isn’t of value. It’s just crazy.”
All of them are trying to stay financially afloat while the case moves through the court system.
“You wake up and you have hope,” says Christie. “You wake up and you push forward and you keep fighting.”
“I’m not going to let him get away with this,” says Goguen. “At least I’ll have my day in court. Win, lose or draw, I want that. I want him to be held accountable for what he’s done to me and Christie and my son.”
The D’Andrea’s waived a home inspection when they bought their house because it was a brand new property. That’s something that experts warn against. Buying a home is a big investment and you want to know as much as you can about a house before you buy it.