THE FEARLESS CONSUMER- Shard sale: broken home angers Louisa buyer

"We offer a TRUE TURNKEY DEAL!" That's how easy Oakwood Homes promises it will be to make your "dream home" a reality– your dream manufactured home, anyway. Oakwood's guide for buyers lists 13 ways the company will make the process a breeze. 

Jim and Marcia Wills, however, are feeling anything but breezy. That's because they claim their newly erected Oakwood Homes house doesn't meet Louisa County building codes, even though Oakwood's list states that "homes will be delivered and set to meet all State and County codes." Now they're locked in a nasty dispute with Oakwood's local dealer on Seminole Trail, and may be headed to court.

The problems started, Jim claims, before the home arrived with many of the roof trusses broken in transit, which he says he discovered when he went into the attic to inspect the roof. Oakwood agreed to correct the problem, but the Willses say the repairs were substandard, and offer as evidence photos in which the trusses appear to be reinforced by an assortment of wood and metal pieces.

The trusses were only one of a long list of problems Marcia says she pointed out to general manager William Beasley when they met at the house in November. Beasley had already agreed to reduce the contract price by $3,100 to finish interior painting and drywall work, which had been left undone by Oakwood's crew. Marcia says that after seeing how many things still needed to be fixed, Beasley told her to get estimates so that she and Jim could take care of the problems independently and reduce their contract price by the same amount.

The most serious of the Willses' assertions is that the house is only attached to the foundation every 18 inches– even though the contract requires that it be attached every six inches. They also claim the house was not leveled correctly and does not sit flush on the foundation, that the vinyl siding is loose in many places, that the wrong corner trim was used in one instance, that some shingles are damaged, and that the light in the master bathroom is hanging by a wire. There are 18 items in all, and the Willses contend that they violate the manufacturer's specifications and may violate Louisa County building codes. 

On December 6, the couple faxed the estimates to Beasley. Including the $3,100 already agreed on for interior work and $200 for time Jim lost from work to meet with contractors, the total came to $21,088. 

In reply, Beasley wrote the Willses to say that "The idea of bids was originally discussed to address cosmetic issues you as the buyer had. It was my opinion, which I discussed with you at the time, that we had more than met our contractual obligation to you. I agreed to you getting the bids so we could attempt to get this issue resolved." The Willses deny Beasley ever said Oakwood's contractual obligation had been met. And if he believed that, they ask, why did he agree to the bids in an "attempt to get [the] issue resolved"? 

Beasley goes on to state, in bold type, that "none of this work is authorized by Oakwood Homes to be performed nor will we pay any bills relating to this work." Finally, he announces that he has forwarded the file to Oakwood's attorney to collect the $14,232 he claims the Willses still owe on their contract.

Jim faxed the attorney, Larry Miller, on December 19 to protest Beasley's assertions and reiterated their expectation that Oakwood would bring the house up to code. Miller responded by email, saying that payment was due by noon on December 22. In a later letter, he extended the deadline to December 28. 

Citing the pending legal action, Beasley declined to speak with me and referred me to Oakwood's corporate spokesman, Chris Nicely, vice president for marketing. Nicely said he could not comment on the Willses' situation because attorneys are involved, but added, "We are interested in 100 percent customer satisfaction."

Stay tuned to see if that's what the Willses get. 

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, Charlottesville, VA 22902.