3 On Your Side

Glendale woman unknowingly buys a 'house of horrors'

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Marielyn Almeida bought a remodeled home in Glendale but had no idea why it was remodeled. (Source: 3TV) Marielyn Almeida bought a remodeled home in Glendale but had no idea why it was remodeled. (Source: 3TV)
The City of Glendale mailed the pictures, along with a letter to Almeida, saying in 2011 they found the home had extremely unhealthy conditions due to animal hoarding and significant animal waste. (Source: 3TV) The City of Glendale mailed the pictures, along with a letter to Almeida, saying in 2011 they found the home had extremely unhealthy conditions due to animal hoarding and significant animal waste. (Source: 3TV)
City officials say they found 60 cats living in filth with feces a half-inch thick on the floor along with cat urine throughout the entire house in 2011. (Source: 3TV) City officials say they found 60 cats living in filth with feces a half-inch thick on the floor along with cat urine throughout the entire house in 2011. (Source: 3TV)
Almeida went on to say the animal hoarding details were never revealed to her on a disclosure form obtained by 3 On Your Side. (Source: 3TV) Almeida went on to say the animal hoarding details were never revealed to her on a disclosure form obtained by 3 On Your Side. (Source: 3TV)
The two agents claimed the only updating they did was cosmetic and they didn't think permits were required. (Source: 3TV) The two agents claimed the only updating they did was cosmetic and they didn't think permits were required. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

A Glendale woman bought a home because it had been remodeled and it looked great. But there's a reason why the house was remodeled, adding to the problem is that the City is saying that the house may have been remodeled improperly.

"The kitchen, the cabinets, I like it," Marielyn Almeida said.

Almeida says a newly renovated kitchen along with some other remodeling is what convinced her to buy this Glendale home.

"In the photos, there used to be a wall in here, the lights were different, it's something new upgrade," Almeida said.

Almeida purchased the home back in December 2016. But just in six months, she says the unexpected happened.

Almeida received a letter from the City of Glendale stating that her home "has recently been remodeled, and sold, without first obtaining the required building permits to abate the unsafe conditions."

"They told me they have to open the walls and check if everything was done properly and they have to open up the walls in the restroom to check the electric because they did a lot of changes," Almeida said.

But to understand why there were "a lot of changes," you have to understand why the house may have been remodeled to begin with.

Disturbing photos were taken in 2011, about five years before Almeida moved in. The City of Glendale mailed the pictures, along with a letter to Almeida, saying in 2011 they found the home had extremely unhealthy conditions due to animal hoarding and significant animal waste.

In fact, city officials say they found 60 cats living in filth with feces a half-inch thick on the floor along with cat urine throughout the entire house in 2011.

Almedia says she couldn't believe it.

"Well, some people are telling me you're handling everything so well, but I was crying for the first few weeks a lot, I couldn't talk about the problem," she said.

The cat situation was so bad back in 2011, a city inspector posted a "Do Not Enter-Unsafe to Occupy" notice in front of the home.

The previous owner was notified by a letter to "abate" the conditions, and if it wasn't done, the City said officials have the authority to "demolish" the house.

"No, I didn't know anything so everything is new to me," Almeida said.

Almeida went on to say the animal hoarding details were never revealed to her on a disclosure form obtained by 3 On Your Side.

On one line asking if the home ever had animals, the seller simply answers the "previous owner had cats" but there was no mention that the home once had 60 cats or the abatement order.

"I spent a few weeks seeing cats around me because it has like 60 cats in the house and I would see cats coming from every corner of the house," Almeida said.  

3 On Your Side went to a Century 21 office for answers. That's because Rodica Bartels sold the house to Almeida.

After being escorted upstairs to Bartels' office, she told us she didn't want to be on camera. However, off-camera, she and another Century 21 agent acknowledged buying and remodeling the home as an investment prior to selling it to Almeida.

They went on to say they had no knowledge of Glendale's investigation into an animal hoarding situation because the house was empty for years before they purchased it.

The matter is now being litigated and in a statement sent to 3 On Your Side from an attorney representing the Century 21 real estate agents, the lawyer says the agents "... had no knowledge of any code enforcement actions taken by the City prior to their ownership, in spite of performing multiple title searches during their ownership."

And as for remodeling the house without getting the proper permits, "They stand behind the quality of work performed." The two agents claimed the only updating they did was cosmetic and they didn't think permits were required.

Almeida says she no longer wants to be in the home.

"I wish I could move but I cannot afford two mortgages," Almeida said.

3 On Your Side also contacted the Glendale building inspector who deemed the home unsafe but he declined our request for an on-camera interview.

A hearing on the matter was held in December with the officer saying “abatement action against this property will be withheld until July 16, 2018, to allow the current owner to resolve her litigation.”

As for Almeida, the matter is almost too much to bear and wonders if the City of Glendale will really go through with demolishing her home.

"It's just difficult because you're never prepared for something like that. Every, daily life events you're not ready for something like that, especially when you have kids," Almeida said.

Again, the City of Glendale wants to get into that house and get in behind walls to see if things like wiring are up to code. And that leaves the house damaged but who pays to repair that damage? That's why this matter is being hashed out in court. When there's an update, we’ll let you know.

A statement from the attorney representing the real-estate agents reads: 

"Mr. Crow and Ms. Bartel's had no knowledge of any code enforcement actions taken by the City prior to their ownership, in spite of performing multiple title searches during their ownership.  They stand behind the quality of work performed, which included: (1) replacement of any and all damaged items in the home, and (2) a multi-step cleaning and remediation process, conducted under the supervision of an Industrial Hygienist.    The matter is currently subject to ongoing litigation, but the parties are working toward resolution. Additionally, the City has postponed any further action against Ms. Arencibia through July 2018.  They have always remained committed to providing top quality homes to their customers, and customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to them.  As such, they will endeavor to resolve this matter promptly with all involved parties."

A statement from the City of Glendale reads:

"At the request of Ms. Marielyn Almeida Arencibia, a hearing was held on December 11 regarding the Building Safety Division’s determination that the conditions at this property constituted an incipient hazard..."   ".... In summary, the Hearing Officer determined the property was an incipient hazard.  The Hearing Officer provided Ms. Arencibia until July 16, 2018 to resolve her litigation with the previous owner, apply for as-built building permits, and submit a satisfactory environmental report about the safe occupancy of the structure.  An “incipient hazard” determination allows Ms. Marielyn Almeida Arencibia to occupy the structure during this timeframe."

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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