Tue | Jan 19, 2021

$382,000 housing dilemma - HAJ, homeowner in stand-off

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2021 | 12:11 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Tapper’s house at Savannah Vista, Runaway Bay, with a façade that belies the true state of the unit.
Tapper’s house at Savannah Vista, Runaway Bay, with a façade that belies the true state of the unit.

A woman who purchased a house from the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) in the Savannah Vista development in Runaway Bay, St Ann, is blasting the agency for the deplorable condition the house was delivered in, and is adamant that she will not pay an additional amount of $382,000 in order to get her title.

The complainant, Sarah Tapper, said she paid the HAJ, a government agency, $23 million plus $85,000 in legal fees for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, with the final payment made on October 7, 2020. She said she was told then, that that was the final payment, and she was handed her keys.

But after several failed attempts to get her title for the property, Tapper said she was shocked when the HAJ notified her of an additional $382,000 in outstanding amount, saying it was bank charges that she needed to pay to close the account, in order to collect her title.

In addition to the money issue, Tapper listed a myriad of problems affecting the house, claiming the building was poorly finished.

With a façade that belies the true state of the house, Tapper said among the problems were the leaking of bedroom and carport roofs, the solar water heater did not work for seven weeks, the building is infested with duck ants, the ceiling not sealed or sprayed, the scent of sewage permeates the surrounding because there is no downpipe in the bathroom, the bathtub that was installed is a used bathtub, electric sockets and lights not working, the walls have several cracks, the front door is damaged and needs replacing, and the entire house needs retiling.

FRUSTRATED

A clearly fed-up Tapper said she is willing to demand her money back and move out of the house, which she currently occupies with her family.

When contacted by The Gleaner, Lori Roache, the HAJ sales officer who dealt with Tapper’s purchase, is nonetheless insisting that the $382,000 must be paid in order for Tapper to collect her title, as it is bank charges that the HAJ cannot completely absorb.

“The account is not yet settled, bank charges are outstanding in the amount of $382,000,” Roache told The Gleaner.

Regarding the issues affecting the house, Roache said they are to be addressed in accordance with the agency’s 180-day contractual obligations. He said, further, that HAJ personnel visited the house in December to view the issues stated by Tapper.

Tapper confirmed that personnel from the HAJ visited her house in December, but said there is no indication when any work will begin to address the problems.

She is now expressing regret at the purchase, but is partially blaming herself. Three years ago when the HAJ just started to build the houses, which were then valued at $17.5 million, she made a down payment, but after a delay of over a year she requested her money back and got it without a fuss.

She said it was late last year when Roache called her and offered her the current unit for $23 million.

Tapper’s lawyer, Garnett Spencer of the Ocho Rios law firm Robinson, Phillips and Whitehorne, declined several opportunities to comment when contacted by The Gleaner.

Tapper, however, said discussions are taking place between her lawyer and the HAJ, but the agency is unwilling to budge. Neither is she.

“I’d rather request my money back and they take back their house,” she said.

The HAJ is not new to complaints by disgruntled homeowners. Just two months ago the agency’s chairman, Norman Brown, was forced to address complaints by residents who purchased units in the Green Pond Grove development in St James.

Complaints had come from nearly all the owners of the 85 houses in the development, whose list of complaints included leaking roofs and termite infestation, among other problems.

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