Homeowner says multiple mistakes made in program funded by the city

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PHOENIX -- It all started with a water heater problem. When it needed to be replaced six years ago, Linda Navasaitis turned to the City of Phoenix for help.

“Living on $986 a month is tough,” she said.

The city offers a number of programs for low-income homeowners, like Navasaitis, that allow folks to apply for grant money for home improvements.

Navasaitis applied and qualified for the home rehabilitation and weatherization assistance programs offered through the city's neighborhood services department. But that's when she says things started to spin out of control.

“At first, I thought it was a good thing and a little chaos was going to be good,” she said.

Turns out, the city told Navasaitis her historic home needed a lot more than just a new water heater.

Six years later, she has a suitcase full of pictures, documents and invoices that have come from a massive project that she says started out as simple request to repair her water heater.

She has all kinds of electrical and plumbing contracts -- one for $16,000 and another for $15,000.

In all, the city has paid for nearly $80,000 worth of repairs, most of which, she says, were due to numerous contractor mistakes.

“Everybody just kept passing my house off and I kept trusting that they're going to do the right thing,” she said. “You know, you give somebody the opportunity to do the right thing and you hope that they do. But, they didn't.”

Rosie Romero is a home improvement expert and hosts a radio show focusing on home improvement projects.

He says we may never know why Navasaitis' simple request for a hot water heater turned into an $80,000, six year fiasco.

"There's just layers of very expensive mistakes that have been made here," he said.

For example, Romero points to a five-ton air conditioner on Navasaitis' roof. He says the unit is twice the size she needs and is so big, it's too expensive for her to use.

“It's sad. It’s really sad,” she said.

3 On Your Side contacted the City of Phoenix. A spokesperson sent us this statement:

“In 2006, Ms. Linda Navasitis applied for our home repair assistance program through the city’s Neighborhood Services Department (NSD).  As assessment was conducted and three major systems were defective and eligible for repair through a combination of housing rehabilitation programs.  The homeowner approved and signed all contracts with licensed contractors to complete the work identified.  Throughout this program, NSD serves to monitor funds and approve the work to ensure federal funding requirements and program guidelines are met. 

Funding for the work completed at her property was provided in the form of grants through the city’s home rehabilitation and weatherization assistance programs.  During the course of the process, Ms. Navasitis raised concerns with the contractors and NSD.  As with any customer, NSD reviewed and ultimately addressed all of her concerns.  Due to the complexity of the concerns raised, this resulted in repeated delays to complete the repairs. 

In addition, the city’s Planning and Development Services Department has ensured that the work has met city’s building codes.  Also, the Arizona Registrar of Contractors has been to Ms. Navasitis’ property on several occasions in response to her calls and has ensured that construction activity complies with the state’s building quality standards.”

As for Navasaitis, she says she had no idea so much time and money would be used in the beginning of all this.

“Looking at it now I would've spent the money to get the water heater,” she said.

If you have a story idea, email 3 On Your Side at 3OYS@azfamily.com.