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Caught in the middle

Caught in the middle

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GREENSBORO — Marcus and Lakeisha Purcell waited five anxious months to walk through the front door of their first home.

The brand new, light green home with the brick porch — purchased with special financing that made it affordable to the young couple — is a place where their 2- and 6-year-old sons can play in their own room.

Now the home is the source of another kind of anxiety.

Purcell and some of his Willow Oaks neighbors have found themselves in the middle of dispute between the company that built their homes and subcontractors who say they have not been paid for work.

Sandra Anderson Builders, owned by Greensboro’s mayor pro tem and longtime affordable-home developer Sandra Anderson Groat, is in the process of going out of business.

Two plumbers, a materials supplier and a brick company have placed more than $300,000 worth of liens for unpaid work on 13 properties the company built in the subdivision, including some properties where families now live.

That’s left homeowners concerned about whether they will be responsible for those debts, and if the one-year warranties on their homes will still be in effect when Groat’s company goes out of business.

Groat said the new owners are not legally responsible for the debts. She said she will honor the warranties.

“It has nothing to do with the homeowners. Nobody has any claim on their homes,” Groat said this week. Still the liens trouble some first-time home buyers.

Willow Oaks — a Greensboro Housing Authority redevelopment of land once occupied by the Morningside Homes public housing community — is full of brightly colored bungalows, single-family homes with high ceilings and small grassy areas.

Sandra Anderson built twin, two-story and ranch-style single-family homes between Spencer and Everitt streets.

The city offered second mortgages to make the homes more affordable. Groat and her daughters counseled homeowners and helped them clean up their credit to get them into a first home.

Marcus Purcell anxiously asked about the home and wouldn’t tell anyone they got their home until they finally closed.

“I bugged her for weeks,” Purcell said.

Now neighbors are wondering whether these new homes are too good to be true.

Earlier this summer, neighbors began getting letters from attorneys, naming the new owners, the housing authority and the builder on liens for unpaid work.

The homes cost about $120,000. In some cases, the contractors claim they are owed more than $20,000 per home, according to court papers.

“I said, ‘What’s going on?’ I know I paid my mortgage,” said Felicia Clapp, who owns a yellow, three-bedroom home in the subdivision.

This type of lien can ensure contractors get paid when the company goes out of business.

The liens expire unless the contractors file a civil lawsuit within 180 days of the last date of work, and none of the contractors have done so thus far.

Groat said the company is working to complete some unfinished houses in Willow Oaks so that proceeds from the sales can help pay the debts.

The company is trying to stay out of bankruptcy, according to a letter sent to creditors last month.

But homeowners are wondering what might happen to them in the process.

“My biggest concern is I am going to be held liable and have to pay for this on top of my mortgage and bills,” said Marcus Purcell. Contractors have filed about $32,000 worth of liens for unpaid work on his home.

Ed Sharpe, staff attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina, said the residents should not be required to pay the debts. But he said they should contact their title insurance company for more information if they plan to sell their houses soon or if they are named in a civil lawsuit.

“It’s unfortunate they have been caught in the middle,” said J. Patrick Haywood, Groat’s attorney. “We will do what we can to ease their concerns. The problem is ours.”

Neighbors are also wondering what will happen to the one-year warranties on their homes.

Next door to the Purcells, Andrea Bullard said she has tried, without success, to get a contractor to make repairs to her bathroom.

On Friday, Groat said the company will honor the warranties.

“Being first-time home buyers, we shouldn’t be in this situation,” Bullard said. “I don’t think it’s fair to us who scrimped and saved to pay our mortgage.”

Contact Amanda Lehmert at 373-7075 or amanda.lehmert


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