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Lawmaker Aims To Protect Minnesotans From Predatory Remodeling

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities homeowner is fighting for change after he didn't get what he paid for when he bought a flipped house.

The flipper made nearly $100,000 off Frost Simula after spending just a few grand on fixes to hide trouble.

"It's exploiting the American dream and no one should have to go through that," Simula said.

Now, a lawmaker is stepping in to put a stop to predatory remodeling. For nearly four years, the costs have only gone up for Frost Simula. He paid $174,000 for the flipped house in Columbia Heights, only to find out weeks later it was worth half that.

WCCO was there in 2013 as he marked each problem with a Post-it note.

"There were problems with plumbing, HVAC, structural problems, load bearing structures had been removed," Simula said.

"This had been removed by the flippers to make this appear bigger, but this is a major beam that runs through the house and it has to be here," he said pointing to a beam he had to put back in to hold up the house.

Simula tried to find someone to hold the flipper accountable, from his local police department to lawyers but he soon discovered the seller was protected with a Seller's Disclosure Alternatives form. Since Simula signed it, he essentially bought the house as-is.

With no recourse, he and his wife have spent more than $60,000 on repairs, so far.

"Most homeowners assume like a car there's some kind of a lemon law for a house but there's not. It's kind of a one-way transaction. Our laws are set up to protect that transaction," he said.

Frost is fighting to change that. He provides other homeowners with protection tips on his website

He also pushes cities to crack down on municipal rules before this type of fraud finds more new homeowners. His work caught the attention of DFL State Senator Carolyn Laine.

"Now it seems like a perfect time to get going on this," Laine said.

She now hopes Minnesota will adopt a law similar to Washington's, where anyone doing a house flip must be a licensed contractor.

"We will draft a bill," she said with confidence.

"So that means they have to maintain all the cities building codes to be able to maintain their ability to flip this house and secondly if there was some shady work that went on the buyer has some recourse to access the contractor recovery fund because they're licensed." Simula said.

Simula also suggests people go a step beyond hiring a home inspector, something he did four years ago.

Instead, he says hire individual trades inspectors for all electrical and plumbing work, who will properly examine the history and current state of each project.

"I don't think anyone should be put out of their house because someone wants to make a quick buck," he said.

Simula believes basic protections can go far. If enough people recognize this as a problem before it happens to them.

"I think there's a way we can make a real difference," he said.

Senator Laine plans to introduce the bill next legislative session.

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