The last time it rained, television sportscaster Glenn Brenner waded, ankle-deep and fuming, through the basement and garage of his new $455,000 house. It was probably the worst rainout in the former pro baseball player's career.
Water gushed down a steeply sloping driveway and into the garage of his Bethesda house, Brenner said. His problems didn't end there, he added, but include difficulties with the heating system, plumbing, walls and flooring.
He said he felt "in a word, rage" when he splashed through his basement. "We really haven't had a happy day in this house. This was supposed to be our dream house, and it's turned into a nightmare."
Brenner complained this week that Maryland developer Steve Loveless, who specializes in custom-built, luxury homes, "says 'I'll be there tomorrow' " to finish up the work, but "never shows."
Loveless said that his contract with Brenner gives the builder until April to complete the house, and that much of the work could not be done during the winter. "There are some little things to be done inside" the home "but that's always true" with new houses, Loveless said.
He said Brenner is "a hot-headed man who wanted to beat up my foreman." Brenner acknowledged losing his temper when his garage and basement flooded but said Loveless' foreman, who was summoned from another site, left after inspecting the water-filled garage, saying that he would try to get a pump. The foreman never returned, Brenner said.
"I'm just a small builder, building three or four houses a year," Loveless said. "I have never had a complaint about the quality of my work. Mrs. Brenner informed me she is happy with the quality of the house. I don't appreciate influential people trying to pressure me."
The Brenners, however, are not alone in their problems with the developer. Three complaints involving Loveless-built homes are pending before the Montgomery County Consumer Affairs Office, according to investigator Leslie Johnson. She said she could not discuss specifics while the cases were being investigated.
One of the complaints was filed by the Brenners. Another, made by the purchasers of a home that is 85 percent completed, has been referred to the county board that oversees the licensing of all building contractors in Montgomery County, Johnson said. The board reviews all licenses and has the authority to revoke or suspend them.
The matter was sent to the board after an agreement between the home buyer and Loveless, negotiated by the consumer office, "was not honored by the builder," according to Johnson. "We felt there were some real problems," she said.
Three other cases involving Loveless homes have been closed in the last year, according to Johnson. She said two were "partially resolved" and the third was not resolved.
Another Loveless customer is Kenneth Lore, a Washington real estate lawyer, who said he signed a contract with the developer in the spring of 1983 calling for Loveless to design and build a house on property Lore owns in the Palisades section of Montgomery County. The home was supposed to be ready for occupancy last June, but it is still incomplete.
Lore said he took the precaution of taking out a bond on the project and of having Loveless and his partner in the project sign a contract that makes them personally liable for damages. The bonding company has taken over the project, he added.
"The consumer affairs office takes one stance, whether the complaint is justified or unjustified," Loveless said. He added that he expects the county board reviewing a complaint to side with him. He said he has "filed a lien against the house" that is the subject of this complaint because the homeowners "haven't paid their bills."
In the case of the Lore house, Loveless said Lore did not abide by their contract. The dispute "will be settled between he and I," Loveless said.
With far less experience in real estate than Lore has, Brenner said, "This is as dumb as I've ever felt in my entire life. We Brenner and his wife Susie trusted the guy. . . . It's buyer beware, and I will next time."
The Brenners bought their Bethesda home in November. Since they moved in a couple of weeks later, Loveless has installed insulation in the attic, put a floor on the laundry room and "has done little else," Brenner said.
Brenner, his wife and three small children moved in before the house was complete, he said, because they sold their former home, relying on the builder's promise that the new house would be ready by Oct. 31.
In between houses, while waiting for the new place to be habitable, the Brenners stayed for two weeks with a friend whose "house was so full of mirrors I had to put on a coat to go to the bathroom," he said.
The Brenners were first shown the house last September by a real estate agent. They put down a deposit soon afterward, and put their old house on the market.
"It's in an ideal location, it's a beautiful home, it's 10 minutes from the station," Brenner said of the Bethesda house.
An inspector the Brenners hired to go through the house in December estimated that $35,000 worth of work still needed to be done, the sportscaster said. Another builder estimated that reworking the driveway to stop the flooding of the basement would cost about $9,000, Brenner added.
An escrow account set up at the time of the sale, intended to cover completion of the house, contains $13,000. The escrow agreement expires April 1, but Brenner said he hopes to get money out of the account before that time so work can go forward.
These are some of the other findings of the inspector, J. D. Grewell, according to his report:
* Defects in retaining walls, including absence of railings atop them, "insufficient-sized weep holes," and damaged and loose masonry.
* Walks are "missing and nonexistent" and the yard "will have to be completely regraded."
* In the heating system, "attic ductwork has major heat loss due to poor installation practices where ducting cut too short and not properly anchored." A 30-ampere disconnect handler fuse on the heat pump should be reduced to a 25-amp fuse "now, to comply with manufacturers' warranty requirements." Not enough registers have been installed in parts of the house, and some floor registers are smaller than the floor openings. The report on the heating system concludes with, in capital letters, "Install missing filters now!"
* "No sump pump system found . . .as normally anticipated on new construction and no floor drain seen."
* Pipes, faucets and fixtures are loose in the tub area of the master bath, and a bidet and a toilet in south bedroom are "loose to floor." The tile work in the master bath is incomplete, and "no ready simple access seen for Jacuzzi as required."
* Restricted access to attic, incomplete downspout controls and no splashblocks in place, incomplete trim and thin paints in eaves.
* Exterior walls stained, interior wall and ceiling surfaces "well below industry standards to many, many areas," installation of doors "below customary standards" with faulty weatherstripping.
* Unsatisfactory joists supporting floor atop basement stairs, causing flooring to shift and spring.
* Decks and porches "incomplete and missing, presenting immediate hazards. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Television sportscaster Glenn Brenner wades through the driveway outside his new $455,000 home in Bethesda. Pipes mark area that was supposed to have a wet bar. Photos by James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post