Michelle Semple outside her home

Street View is a monthly column in which we’ll take a close look at development-related issues affecting different neighborhoods throughout the city.
Michelle Semple outside her home
A week after Michelle Semple closed on her new home, her downstairs toilet backed up and her shower flooded. Semple called a plumber, who found a dropped plumbing cap had fallen into a drain during previous renovations. That first issue cost her about $650. But soon, the problems would become more significant. 
Semple bought her home in December 2021 for $555,000 from 508 Investors LLC, who had purchased the home in June for $395,000 and “flipped” it over the next six months using construction company BMK Building Group. (It’s worth noting that BMK and 508 are managed by the same family: Logan King, the head of BMK Building Group, is the son-in-law of Ted Bertuca Jr., the president of 508.) The home had previously been owned by the same family since 1963. In online photos, it looks like a typical Nashville renovation: BMK turned the 1960s-style pink bathroom white; the entire home’s fixtures are whites and light grays. 
After the first leak, Semple’s real estate agent called 508’s real estate agent. “They refused to pay for it, saying it was now my responsibility,” Semple says. 
About a month later, water leaked through the downstairs ceiling. “The main water pipe under the kitchen sink had a hole in the top of it, and the dishwasher water was pushing through the existing hole,” she says. The leak meant numerous repairs: removal of kitchen cabinets and countertops, ceiling replacement, snaking the main water line, installing new plumbing and more. 
When contractors removed Semple’s ceiling, they discovered an exposed 220-volt line with frayed wires and a missing electric box. “I missed the entire house going up in flames by mere feet when the kitchen sink leaked,” Semple says. 
Then Semple’s main water line broke off due to an improper connector. At the time, she already had contractors in her home working on the plumbing and electrical issues. Because of the water damage, “the ground began to break away from the house and a large vacant area under my sidewalk,” Semple says. At that point, she called BMK again. 
BMK injected foam under the sidewalk and replaced dirt under the house. But Semple says they did so improperly, causing the sidewalk to slant toward the foundation. She says BMK offered to reimburse her more than $900 for the plumber to fix the main water line and install the proper connector, but never sent the money. 
To date, Semple says she has spent more than $50,000 on home repairs. “I’ve had to drain my savings, take loans from family, and put a lot on my credit cards. I also work from home, and I had constant noise and construction,” she says. 
Semple filed a lawsuit against 508 Investors and BMK in December. Jean Harrison, who’s been practicing construction law for more than 25 years, is Semple’s attorney. Harrison says poor residential construction is widespread and systemic, caused in part by Tennessee’s lax construction regulations. “Passing the building code is like getting a D minus,” she says. “It just means that your house won’t fall over in 100-mile-an-hour winds.” Home inspections also have limitations, and can miss issues like Semple’s frayed wiring. 
Harrison has a wide range of residential clients, and she says no price point is safe from poor construction. Blake Saltaformaggio, another client, is currently suing Arnold Homes LLC for $2 million. Saltaformaggio bought his $1.3 million home in 2018, and issues emerged about a year later. When he noticed sloping floors, bending columns, bowing walls and other issues, he hired a structural engineering firm to assess the home. They found “extensive load path errors, structural deficiencies and code violations,” he says. 
After finding the structural issues, Saltaformaggio initially contacted Arnold Homes, and he says they apologized and agreed to solve the issues. But months went by and they didn’t pursue further action to complete repairs. Faced with a high estimated repair cost, Saltaformaggio filed a lawsuit. 
Saltaformaggio’s Brentwood home is his primary residence, and the repairs presented a dilemma. “We have no good options,” he says. “We cannot sell the home without disclosing these problems and repair costs to potential buyers, and the cost to repair is estimated at $2-plus-million. I have spent many days over the course of the past few years meeting with attorneys, engineers and builders, paired with many sleepless nights. Sacred time I should be spending with my wife and two young kids is spent with this massive burden in the back of my mind. I can never get this time back.” 
Home-flipping slightly declined in the U.S. during the last quarter of 2022, but flipped homes still accounted for about 1 in 13 of those sold. Tennessee’s current laws make it challenging for some homebuyers to take action against poor construction, and Harrison doesn’t believe that will change. “It’s really about the legislature’s unwillingness to put teeth into the laws relative to construction,” she says. 
Harrison says there’s a “cyclical” influx of new contractors in each housing boom. “When we had the buildup in the early 2000s, there were all kinds of insane building things going on then as well,” she says. She’s seen some “really good contractors that are in it for the long haul.” But each boom also attracts people who “had not built so much as a doghouse … yet felt completely qualified to build a home,” says Harrison. “Somebody who thinks that being a contractor is having a Rolodex and making calls.” 
“They don’t understand the building science, they don’t understand the process,” Harrison says. “And they don’t understand the potential pitfalls. By the time they learn those lessons, it’s usually at the expense of the person they built for.” 
Semple’s case against 508 Investors and BMK is currently in Chancery Court. After the initial plumbing issues, she found “significant movement” in her foundation. “Every wall in the house is cracking, and nails are popping,” she says. “The upper kitchen cabinets are pulling away from the wall.” Her upstairs doors no longer close, and her windows no longer work properly. 
Semple obtained pictures of the house before 508 bought it, and found evidence of foundation issues that builders had covered with decorative wood. She says radon gas has leaked into her HVAC unit, and her tiles began to break because the grout was not attached to the subfloor. 
“As a single woman, I sought out a house that was renovated, new roof, new HVAC, minimum repairs and something I could manage on my own,” she says. “I am petrified every single day what will happen next. Who knows what continues to lurk in the walls.”
The Scene scheduled an interview with BMK Building Group, but they did not answer calls at the scheduled interview time, nor did they respond to multiple requests to comment afterward. 
Randy Arnold did not respond to a request to comment on Saltaformaggio’s case. 
The Scene also reached a representative from Arnold Homes, who said they would pass on the request for comment to the appropriate parties, but they did not send any follow-up response. 
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