Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
By Daniel Myers
For an update on this, check out this post about a sanctions motion filed by the family and their attorney.
There is an old adage in construction—measure twice; cut once. One Medina County family claims that their contractor misled them about the measurement, and cut corners, on their dream home. They filed a lawsuit against Cleveland-area contractor Perrino Builders and their architect, Greenwalt Architects, alleging that, in addition to failing to honor promises, Perrino and Greenwalt conspired to defraud the family by making them pay for square footage that turned out not to exist. The lawsuit also alleges that Perrino Builders violated Ohio’s consumer protection law governing new home construction.
The lawsuit, Paul Neel, et al. v. A. Perrino Construction, Inc., et al., Case Number CV-16-867716, filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, alleges that despite repeated concerns expressed by the family, and opportunities for Perrino and Greenwalt to address the various problems with the project, Perrino Builders, Greenwalt Architects, Pat Perrino, and Christopher Greenwalt continually misrepresented the square footage of the home they were building for the Medina County family by nearly 400 square feet.
According to the complaint, Defendants A. Perrino Construction, Inc., Pat Perrino, Greenwalt Architects, Inc., and Christopher Greenwalt, all work together in constructing new and custom homes in Cleveland and surrounding areas. They are accused of making intentionally false statements to their customers about square footage in a home they were building, where they promised their customers at least 3,000 square feet, but then built a home that was only 2,620 square feet at most. According to the Medina County Building Department records and Summit County Fiscal Office tax records, Perrino and Greenwalt actually built the smaller square footage home.
“When you are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for your dream home, a home for your family, you have the expectation and the right to know the truth what you are buying,” said Daniel Myers, one of the attorneys for the family. “The square footage of this home was especially important because the deed only allowed the family to build a home on this land if it met certain minimum square foot measurements.”
The lawsuit alleges that the family was required to have at least 2,800 square feet in their home, but were provided with less than that minimum requirement, and far less than the promised amount. The Plaintiffs claim in their complaint to have email and voicemail evidence from Perrino and Greenwalt of the promised 3,000-3,050 square foot amount.
“There is a national standard that is supposed to be used to avoid this exact problem,” said Myers. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) publishes a national standard for contractors, realtors, appraisers, and everyone else involved in real estate to use when calculating and reporting square footage of a home. This standard, originally published in 2003 by a committee led by the National Association of Home Builders, is what most people think of when they think of square footage: enclosed areas in a house that are suitable for year-round use, not including garages, unfinished areas, or open-air space in a room with a two-story ceiling. Perrino Builders is a member of the Home Builder Association of Greater Cleveland, which, through its association with the Ohio Home Builder Association, is affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders.
According to the lawsuit, Perrino and Greenwalt provided the larger, false calculation to their customers in writing, on the contract, and in various communications via email and voicemail at the same time they knew it was false—they provided the real measurement to their subcontractors and to the building department. “If you review the handwritten application sent to the Medina County Building Department for permission to build the home, an application supposedly signed by Chris Greenwalt, the relevant areas of the home add up to almost 400 square feet less than the numbers that were repeatedly given to the customers by Chris Greenwalt and Pat Perrino.”
“As any home buyer knows, the square footage of a home is one of the most important factors that determines its ultimate value on the market,” Samantha Vajskop, co-counsel for the Plaintiffs, explained. “Building a home is a very stressful and intimidating experience for consumers. It is made worse when, after being told that the construction is over, you discover that the actual process has only just begun.”
The complaint states that the Defendants have a “pattern and practice” of using this non-standard calculation with all of their customers. The complaint also claims that other contractors and associations, such as the Greater Cleveland Home Builders Association, to which Perrino belongs, “generally frown upon contractors trying to include” the areas that Perrino and Greenwalt included in the square foot measurement.
“This family did everything right. They verified promises in writing, saved documents, used their own inspectors, and saved communications. But sometimes even that will not protect you from these sorts of problems,” said Myers. “Short of using public records requests to obtain and review all documents and applications submitted by a contractor to the local building department during every step of construction, there is little more consumers can do to protect themselves from this sort of problem.”
A copy of the Complaint can be found HERE. For further comment or questions, please contact Daniel J. Myers, Esq., lead counsel for Plaintiffs, by calling him at 216-236-8202 or emailing him at DMyers@MyersLawLLC.com.