Foreclosure deal sours for Golden Valley man

When it comes to buying a house there are no guarantees, especially when it comes to purchasing a foreclosure.

Frank Micomonaco found that out the hard way when he purchased a property in Golden Valley in 2009 and found that one of the two homes on the property was not hooked up to a septic system.

Now, he's facing a court date, a $1,300 bill for a permit, and fines that could reach $10,000, for an illegal septic system if he doesn't get a septic permit by Friday.

"All he needs to do is come in and get the permit. We would love to see him walk in the door," said Rachel Patterson, the director of Mohave County's Environmental Health Division. "Then he would have two years to install the system and get it inspected."

He would still have to appear in court and show the judge that he had gotten a permit, she said.

"But what about the fines?" Micomonaco asked, "I don't have $1,300. I've lost a lot of money trying to fix this place up. My whole life savings is in it and I can't sell my home in Pennsylvania because of the market."

Micomonaco bought the 2.35-acre, bank foreclosed property on Amethyst Road in 2009. The property came with a mobile home, a carport and a 1,200 square foot, owner-built house.

He says the county approved the septic system at least three times without adequately inspecting it and making sure it was connected to the 1,200 square-foot home. He's just trying to move the septic tank to correct their error.

Patterson counters that moving an existing permitted septic system makes it a new system, which requires a new permit. She also pointed out that the septic system on the property was only permitted for the old mobile home. The department has no record of a request for a septic permit for the 1,200 square-foot house.

Unfortunately, Micomonaco's situation is not all that uncommon, said Lori Chambers, a Realtor for Remax Prestige Properties. Chambers and her office were not involved in the sale of the property to Micomonaco.

"I've heard some horror stories," she said. "It's rare, but it does happen.

"When you purchase a foreclosed home from a bank you sign all sorts of paperwork saying you won't hold the bank accountable for any problems the home might have.

"The banks have no way of knowing what may be wrong with a foreclosed property. They haven't lived there. It's up to the buyer to make sure they know what they're getting."

Even a home bought directly from a private seller can have unforeseen problems, Chambers said. A home could be thoroughly inspected and given the green light, but a new homeowner could knock down a wall and find mold. The new homeowner is responsible for cleaning it up, she said.

Chambers recommends hiring a good Realtor and a good housing inspector for the purchase of any home, especially when you're dealing with anything that involves owner-built additions.

"The only way to protect yourself is know what you're getting into," she said.

Micomonaco found out that his 1,200 square-foot home was not connected to the septic system in April 2011 when the plumber remodeling his bathroom notified him the drain for the toilet didn't connect with anything.

He tried to correct the situation by hiring a neighbor's son in October 2011 to move the septic system and have it connected to the home. The man stopped work on the project when he fell off a backhoe and was injured.

When the county notified him that the incomplete septic system was illegal, shortly after the neighbor stopped working on it, he applied to the county's housing rehabilitation program for help.

The program helps low-income residents make repairs to their homes to make sure they are living a safe environment. Micomonaco lives off of a fixed income and is confined to a wheelchair because of health problems.

Micomonaco was removed from the program's waiting list in June after the county determined that he did not meet income eligibility requirements.

He immediately contacted Martin and Barbara Blythe at the county's housing rehab program to fix the situation, but before he could, he was served with the summons to appear in court.

"Once it reaches the courts, it's out of our hands," Patterson said. "He may have to pay some fines, that would be up to the judge."