Chatham County homeowner left with unsafe, unsellable house takes his fight to county leaders

Diane Wilson Image
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
NC homeowner left with unsafe home takes his fight to county leaders
The Muehlbach family continued their fight for justice and spoke at the Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night expressing frustrations.

We have new details in a Troubleshooter investigation involving a Chatham County home riddled with code violations.

The Muehlbach family continued their fight for justice and spoke at the Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night expressing frustrations that the county isn't taking responsibility for its inspectors who missed more than a dozen code violations.

Jake Muehlbach said during the meeting, "Construction being approved with over thirty code violations and major structural issues is unique to Chatham County. Permits being issued that should have required an engineer's approval is unique to the Chatham County community doesn't mean that you did no wrong. It means you aren't going to allow yourself to be held accountable."

In May, we showed you the issue with Muehlbach's home. Their newly constructed home passed every building inspection by county inspectors despite major structural code violations. The Muehlbachs sued their builder and won, but also wanted Chatham County to be responsible since it was their inspector that missed major code violations.

Despite having insurance for claims like this, a judge granted the county governmental immunity, and the county's insurance company did not have to pay. At the meeting on Monday night, Jake Muehlbach along with other Chatham County homeowners addressed their concerns to the county board of commissioners.

Jake said, "I'm requesting that citizens applying for a permit are notified in writing that the county does not guarantee their services and won't be held liable, making it clear that in Chatham County you build at your own risk, the commissioners are the highest level of government in Chatham and represent the actions of this country. If you sit idly by and do nothing, then you might as well have signed my negligent inspection yourselves."

In his response during the meeting, Board Chair, Karen Howard said, "There is not something that the individual Commissioners or that we as a board can do that is beyond what is legally allowed and that's difficult for us as individuals. It's difficult for us, as you know, homeowners as residents of Chatham County and if there's something that can be done differently in the future with regard to how these circumstances are avoided, that's a conversation. I think we're all open to it, but I don't want the impression of the community to be that there was any lack of caring or compassion or concern or conversation amongst the members of this board."

The attorney for Chatham County Bob Hagemann, explained the county and its insurance company followed North Carolina law, which allows for governmental immunity. "I'm not asking anybody to say they like this outcome or they agree with this decision or like the decision, but it is in my opinion a proper application of North Carolina law to the situation. Now having obtained a court ruling that the county has governmental immunity, where does that leave you as a board? In my opinion, you have no discretion to pay this claim. There's no authorization to pay this claim, to do so would be an improper expenditure of county funds."

Muehlbach's say they will continue to fight as they are left with a home that engineers deemed unsafe to live in.

WATCH | NC family's dream home becomes a nightmare after code violations missed during inspections

What was supposed to be a forever home for a Chatham County family is now an "unsellable" home that they fear isn't even fit to live in.