On Wednesday night when Vera Smith and Barbara Summer returned to their four story renovated brick town house at 2222 First St. NW they found themselves ankle deep in water.
They were angry and frustrated, but not surprised. Such occurences have become almost common since they paid $57,000 for the house last June.
Wednesday night's problem came after a pipe burst. It was the same pipe that burst in September. That time only the first floor was flooded. This time the first floor and the basement had six to eight inches of water.
Smith, 30, who works as an accountant at the Department of Agriculture, and Summer, 35, a chemist for the Department of the Army at Fort Belvoir bought the house from the Universal Housing and Development Corporation through Metropolitan Properties, a local real estate agent.
Yesterday Don Gray, the agent at Metropolitan Properties who sold the women the house, said that there had been problems with it but said he did not think he had been negligent in dealing with them.
"They have a legitimate gripe up to a certain point," he said. "There have been problems and we're working to rectify them. But I've sent roofers up there twice to repair the roof and they wouldn't let them in the house. What can I do about that?"
Sumner and Smith say they did not let the roofers in because previous subcontractors hired by Metropolitan had done shoddy work. They said they wanted to check on any subcontractors before allowing them in the house.
"We just didn't know enough when we bought this place," Smith said. "We bought it as a shell (empty) with certain specifications in the purchase contract, like working fireplaces, which we don't have. We just didn't have enough knowledge to handle the agents."
On Jan. 23, about seven months after they moved into the house, the two women had Home-Tech Systems, a building analysts company, inspect the house.
Two days later Home-Tech sent them a report listing 24 deficiencies in the house, including a statement that violations of the electrical code and the general building code were noticed. They estimated it would take between $8,530 and $10,005 to make repairs.
"The Home-Tech report is ridiculous," Gray said. "If all those problems exist they could be fixed for half the amount they specify."
Gray said he would be willing to fix "three-fourths" of the items of the list but did not say how much of the actual bill he would be willing to pay.
Upon receipt of the Home-Tech report, Smith and Summer wrote to Harold Sumny, former Universal Housing and Development president, now president of his own company, requesting that he reimburse them for the money mentioned in the Home-Tech report.
Sumny wrote back a week later saying, "What you have proposed in your letter of Feb. 1 is unrealistic in your acceptable . . . All further correspondence will be through my lawyer."
Sumny said yesterday he, like Gray, felt the women had "some legitimate grievances. But I'm not going to send them money based on one report. I'd have to see at least two or three."
Smith and Sumner have now hired an attorney to help them decide their next move. Gray and Sumny say they will consider payment when they see further documentation of the problems.
They say the women have been uncooperative. The women say Gray and Sumny have been uncooperative. In the meantime, the roof leaks, exposed pipes can be seen in the ceilings and there is still an odor of stale water in the house.
"I am willing and I am able to rectify the situation there," Gray concluded, "but not based on one report."
"The whole thing is so silly," Sumner said. "We wanted to work on this house and we've spent the whole time trying to keep it together. And I know this must happen to other people too. It's just a totally helpless feeling."