A Big Flaw in Bellingham’s Rehab Program

I am concerned about the city of Bellingham’s Home Rehabilitation Program. The intention of repairing safety items with a low interest loan is great; however, they require you to use contractors which they have vetted and have legal qualifications met, (licensure) but there is no guarantee of the quality of their work.

I qualified for the program due to safety concerns with my home, mainly the front concrete porch and a balcony guardrail which was not high enough by city guidelines.
There were problems with the porch as it wasn’t poured to contract specifications; then it failed the final inspection due to excessive slope.

The balcony guardrail vertical posts are all loose and the top rail is splintering and cracking. The contractor’s comment was “well the posts aren’t going to blow away.” If this were truly a safety issue, one would think tightness and security of posts on a balcony would be essential.

Per our contract, the contractor and I went to one session of mediation and at the beginning of the second session he said he wanted out of the contract. The city was willing to negate our contract if we both called the finances even.

I have met with two people from the city Planning Department and expressed my concerns about substandard work by our contractor as well as meeting with a city councilman all to no avail. The city has no liability regarding the work these contractors do for their program.

I have had to pay nearly $300 for mediation, $100 to get other contractors to document the errors of the general contractor, $500 (at this writing) for a lawyer, plus it will cost me another $800 to correct his errors with other issues inside my home. To demolish the concrete porch just poured in June and to pour a new one will cost over $8,000! It seems the contractor is not accountable for his work and the city is not responsible if a contractor does not produce work up to “industry standards” as specified in the contract.

Beware of city programs offering cheap interest. Since there are very few contractors willing to jump through city hoops, I think only the most needy apply. The city wants to keep the ones they have at all costs. Through all the sweet talk and lip service, it is my opinion that the city of Bellingham’s Home Rehab Program does not support the homeowner and sides with the contractors which they need to keep the program going.

Susan Thurn

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