Homeowners blame city for flawed construction

Subdivision residents say lack of oversight allowed contractor negligence

A group of Minot homeowners say the failure of Minot building inspectors has left them with properties with subpar construction. In seeking relief from the Minot City Council Monday, they discovered the city may be immune from liability.

Jon Newman said he bought his home, built in 2008 in Heidrich’s Subdivision, in 2014. After putting it on the market last fall, he discovered the house was not built to the specifications indicated on the building permit. A review of the construction history found the city hadn’t performed an inspection before issuing a certificate of occupancy.

“I believe if the home had been inspected at all that we wouldn’t be standing here and those things would have been caught,” he said. “I cannot sell my home at this point, and I need to move on to my new job.”

Heidrich’s Subdivision is located northeast of the airport along 13th Street. Residents in the subdivision of 89 homes have reported problems with bowing walls and improper foundations.

Newman said he has been unable to contact the developer, Jeff Heidrich, who has filed bankruptcy.

“If the city had at least had the inspectors go, ‘Yup, this is what it’s supposed to be,’ Jeff Heidrich would have never been allowed to build that entire subdivision in a negligent manner,” said subdivision homeowner Phillip Newman, who is no relation to Jon Newman. “The inspectors never held him to what he said he was going to do.

“At the end of the day what are the codes for? And what is the city’s responsibility?” he added. “Do you guys just want the money at the end of the day or is the inspection actually for a purpose of making the buildings and the establishments – the things that are put up in Minot – sustainable?”

City Attorney Stefanie Stalheim said the building permit application includes an indemnification agreement with Heidrich that releases the city from all claims that might arise under the city’s review or failure to review the building plans, including claims from future homeowners. State law also limits the amount of money that cities can be held liable for, she said.

Although empathetic to homeowner concerns, the council had no immediate answers. Mayor Chuck Barney directed the homeowners to work with the city building inspector to determine what the options are. Council member Josh Wolsky also volunteered to be part of those discussions.