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Homeowners File Lawsuit

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

A Glenwood family whose house was deemed unsafe to live in has filed a lawsuit alleging the home was not properly designed or constructed.

According to court documents, Nelson and Christi Leidel, purchased the home at 55540 Forrester Valley Lane in Park Place Acres north of Glenwood for $329,000 in 2004. Last November, federal officials determined the home was unfit to live in.

The Leidels filed suit in Mills County District Court on March 30 asking the defendants to buy back their home at the original purchase price and pay them unspecified compensatory damages. The suit names Mark Hughes of Mark Hughes Construction, the home’s builder; Jim Hughes, owner of Jim Hughes Real Estate, the neighborhood developer; Todd Wright, a real estate agent who works for Jim Hughes; and Mills County as defendants.

The Leidels, who have two children who are also named as plantiffs, have since vacated the home and currently live in a rental house. The home’s damage is not covered by home owner’s insurance, the Leidels have stated.

The 1.67-acre property sits on a slope in the Loess Hills and backs up to a creek. The rear part of the yard overlooking the creek has eroded and collapsed in the past several months. The resulting sliding of the property toward the creek has caused the ground and home to shift and the house itself to exhibit a “sinking and twisting effect,” according to an Oct. 24, 2008, letter signed by Mills County Emergency Management Director Larry Hurst and Mills County Supervisor Richard Crouch.

The suit states the home has cracks in the driveway, foundation and drywall and in addition to plumbing issues as a result of the foundation shifting and has improper ventilation and carbon monoxide leaks.

The suit alleges negligence by Mark Hughes Construction and Jim Hughes Real Estate for “failure to properly design and construct the home and such defects have caused progressive, continuing and worsening damage to the home,” and that the builder and developer failed to repair the property in a “reasonable, good and workmanlike manner.”

The county is named as a co-defendant in the suit for “breaching its duty” by failing to have a uniform building code for residential home construction prior to the home’s construction.

When the Leidels’ home was built, the county had no building codes. However, last March, the county adopted uniform building standards, permits and inspections for new residential and commercial construction.