NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The big white sign on Chesapeake Boulevard in Norfolk reads: “Do not buy that house before talking to me.” The sign points to a home that’s being worked on next door.
10 On Your Side was curious about what was behind that sign, so we contacted the homeowner, Conner Jewell.
That house next door, like Jewell’s house, is owned and rehabbed by Mozart Investment LLC. Jewell said he is warning people of issues he’s had with his home since he and his wife purchased it.
“Flush our toilet, came out of the shower,” Jewell said.
Jewell said he had serious plumbing issues almost from the start of moving in. As a matter of fact, he and his wife had to move out days after closing on the house.
When you enter the Jewell home now, you see on the couch, for the lack of better words, a “wedding blanket.”
The blanket has pictures of the Jewell love story. They both grew up in Kentucky. Conner and Michael (who is named after her father) were childhood sweethearts. They were married on July 14, 2018. He’s active-duty U.S. Navy fixing helicopters, and she is a special education teacher.
On Oct. 7, 2021, they bought their first home at 2934 Chesapeake Boulevard, and it quickly became a house of horrors, like when Jewell took his first shower.
“I would flush the toilet. I turn on the water in either sink, and it would all come out in my bathtub … waste from the toilet would back up into the tub.” he said.
After spending $289,000 for the rehabbed house (it cost the seller only about half of that amount before the rehab process), Jewell’s plumbing issues demanded immediate attention. So, he got opinions from five master contractors.
“One came out, got under the house. The first thing he saw was raw sewage and water coming out of the pipe and right off the bat found there were improper fittings … it was all back graded into my house, there was no way for it to exit into the city sewer.”
Some of the problems were there in Jewell’s C & C Home Inspections report. One picture showed a pipe going sharply up and not down to take water out of the home and into the city pipe.
“Some of the pipes were at 90-degree angles. Sewage was backing up into the home,” Jewell said.
Jewell confronted the home inspector about the pipe.
“They told me they are not code inspectors, so it is not their job,” he said.
10 On Your Side confronted the man who owns C & C Home Inspections, Curt Lind, who has since renamed the company and operates out of his home.
Jewell thinks Lind let him down.
“I refunded his money,” Lind told us outside his home. The amount was $325, but Jewell told us he refused to cash the check, unhappy with the home inspector’s services.
“He doesn’t want your money. He wanted a good home inspection that would have caught this problem and it did not,” we said to Lind.
Lind responded, “OK, and I apologized to him, and that is why I sent it through to my insurance company,” to let them settle the dispute.
The insurance company supported their client, Lind, finding the home inspector “did his job on the day of the inspection.”
Lind added, “The day of the inspection, the water ran just fine and did not back up the day of the inspection … and we ran the water from the sinks and tubs.”
But when Lind went back to the house on a follow-up, there were issues.
“The day I went back over there, I met his wife, and the crawl space was flooded. I do not disagree … I could not go in there.”
10 On Your Side asked: “How do you explain everything is fine during your home inspection then they have these major plumbing issues?”
“I do not know … I can’t explain it … that’s why I sent it to my insurance agent,” Lind said.
10 On Your Side has pictures from a plumber the Jewells called, and in those pictures, the crawl space is clearly flooded.
Jewell’s attorney sent a demand letter threatening to sue Mozart Investment LLC, which rehabbed the home and sold it to Jewell.
Jewell’s attorney letter states what plumbers found: “The entire drain system was improperly installed, including plumbing pipes with improper 90-degree bends … the drain lines not vented properly and are back graded … and the main sewer in the crawlspace was installed improperly,” said Attorney Bryan Peeples.
Mozart Investment recently closed down in Red Mill Commons Suite 166, so 10 On Your Side went looking for Mozart’s registered agent, Shiller Menard, at his Virginia Beach home,
Shortly after a woman at the home said Menard wasn’t there, Menard’s attorney called 10 On Your Side.
Kevin Brunick refused to do an on-camera interview, but we asked him: “How come Mozart LLC is refurbishing that home, and did not pull water and electric permits in compliance with the City of Norfolk?”
Brunick responded, “I do not believe they are under an obligation to do that.”
They are obligated, according to the City of Norfolk.
As part of our investigation, we thoroughly searched the history of permits at Jewell’s home. A city spokesperson confirmed, “there were no plumbing or electrical improvements proposed or requested … adding new water lines and electrical wiring will require permits.”
10 On Your Side obtained a notice of violation that Jewell got after he requested the city to inspect, and the violation states, “work done with no permits … work not installed to code.”
That brings us back to Conner Jewell, who walked out of the house with us to the big sign in front.
“Well, I was sitting back, and I had already taken my loss and I said if I am not going to get any of my money back then what can I do to help the buyer of that house,” he said pointing to the house next door.
Jewell printed up a huge sign that reads “DO NOT BUY THAT HOUSE BEFORE TALKING TO ME.”
We asked Jewell: how did this happen, was he taken advantage of, and should he have known better?
He responded: “[They are probably thinking] ‘Oh, he’s active duty. That’s just some dumb military kid. He won’t know someone pushed something up under the rug. He’ll never know.’”