NORFOLK, Va. — There’s a big white sign on Chesapeake Boulevard in Norfolk pointing to the home next door that reads: “Do not buy that house before talking to me.”
WAVY contacted homeowner Conner Jewell, who put up the banner-like sign. The neighboring house is undergoing work.
That house, like Jewell’s home, 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. In fact, he and his wife had to move out days after closing on the house. The home’s problems ended up costing them thousands of dollars.
“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.
When you enter the Jewell home now, you see on the couch a blanket that has pictures of the Jewells.
They both grew up in Kentucky. Jewell and his wife, 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.
“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.
WAVY spoke with the owner of C & C Home Inspections, Curt Lind, who has since renamed the company and operates out of his home.
“I refunded his money,” Lind said of Jewell. The amount was $325, but Jewell said he refused to cash the check, unhappy with the home inspector’s services.
“I apologized to him,” Lind said, “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 visit, 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,” he said.
Jewell’s attorney sent a demand letter threatening to sue Mozart Investment LLC, which rehabbed the home and sold it to Jewell.
“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,” Jewell’s attorney, Bryan Peeples, said in a letter stating what the plumbers found.
Mozart Investment recently closed down. An attorney representing Mozart’s registered agent, Shiller Menard, responded to questions about why water and electric permits were not pulled in compliance with the City of Norfolk for the home refurbishing.
Kevin Brunick responded, “I do not believe they are under an obligation to do that.”
However, a city spokesperson said, “There were no plumbing or electrical improvements proposed or requested. … Adding new water lines and electrical wiring will require permits.”
WAVY obtained a notice of violation that Jewell received after he requested the city to inspect, and the violation states, “Work done with no permits … work not installed to code.”
Jewell speculated on how this all happened.
“[They are probably thinking] ‘Oh, he’s active duty. That’s just some dumb military kid,” he said. “He won’t know someone pushed something up under the rug. He’ll never know.’”