By: Brett Davidsen, News 10,
They bought their house from the United
States government but now a couple from Sodus has nothing to show for
it. They can't live in the house, can't sell it and can't afford to
It was supposed to be their dream home,
the perfect starter house for Darlene and Mark Sovie. A fixer-upper
but a house they looked forward to making their own.
"We lived in a mobile home for 17
years and this is our first home that we owned,” said Darlene Sovie.
They spent $40,000 to buy the house,
and thousands more to renovate it.
"We got a new furnace, new
windows, new roof, new doors."
But three years later it now sits
vacant. When they moved in, toxic black mold was growing in places
they couldn't yet see. Family members were struggling with unexplained
health issues. It only became apparent when Darlene went into
“A pulmonologist had stated that I
had the mold spores in my lungs," said Darlene Sovie.
The mold infiltrated the house through
the sub-flooring crawl space, an incomplete foundation allowed the
moisture to cultivate.
The Sovies contacted their insurance
company which ordered a mold work-up on the house. The report found
air counts that were 8 to 18 times the outdoor levels and stated
"exposure to these levels can be harmful to a person's
They tried to file a claim with their
insurance carrier, but it denied them saying the mold was a
pre-existing condition and not covered in the Sovie's homeowner's
policy. As a result, the code enforcement officer from the town of
Sodus condemned the house.
"I got memories here that can't be
replaced, pictures on the walls that I couldn't take with me. My
furniture is still here."
The mold is just about everywhere you
turn now. So who sold the Sovie's this house? The United States
government did. They bought it from HUD and the contract states that
HUD doesn't guarantee the condition of the property. The house is
sold, "as is."
The HUD contract warns them to get an
engineer's inspection for their protection and they did.
Kim Brumber is with Neighbor Works, a
non-profit community development credit union that offers counseling
and education to people looking to become homeowners. She says she
sees flaws in HUD's "as is" policy.
"When people go into a house and
these houses are often lower priced, they see a bargain," said
The Sovies have written letters to
their elected representatives with no luck. To fix the house would
cost nearly as much as they paid for it.
According to Darlene Sovie, the
building inspector told them, "The best bet for us was to burn it
With everything sunk into their
contaminated home, the Sovies now have nothing and have filed for
bankruptcy. Their dream of owning a home has become a nightmare from
which they can't awake.
The Sovies say they are still hoping
the bank will forgive the lien and avoid foreclosing on the property.
They say that will allow them to keep the land and perhaps put a
modular home on it.