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Landslide Turns Dream Home Purchase Into Nightmare

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KILBUCK TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – From the front, a home near Route 65 looks like a typical construction project, but in the back, everything is starting to fall apart – all because of landslides.

It was supposed to be Russ and Laura Hartzell's dream home, the place where they planned to raise a family and live out their days.

They bought the unfinished house in Kilbuck Township from a couple who was getting a divorce, but before they could hire a contractor to finish the job, Mother Nature reclaimed the structure.

"This is a poured cement wall that came down in one piece," Laura Hartzell said. "Unfortunately, 36 hours after we closed on the house, we walked in to find this mess."

(Photo Credit: Laura Hartzell)

A landslide, with no warning, sent tons of dirt from the hillside into the basement. The house is not livable and the cost of repairs would be far more than what they paid.

"This is a catastrophic event," Russ Hartzell said.

"Yes, it's a traumatic event, but this isn't an act of God, it's an act of negligence and it's also an act of planned ignorance," Laura said.

You may remember the landslide at the Walmart construction site at the former Dixmont State Hospital property along Route 65. It turns out the soil on the Hartzell's property is the same type involved in that landslide and the same elevation. Engineers say the Hartzell's house should have never been built, just like the Walmart was never built.

The Hartzells say their longtime insurance company never responded and this battle is going to court.

"We filed a lawsuit and to our knowledge, two of the four parties have been served this past week," Laura said.

After months of nightmares, they say homebuying will never be the same.

"This has caused so many sleepless nights and for us to question everything," Laura said. "I don't know if we can physically go through the homebuying process again."

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