ORLANDO, Fla. — Action 9 investigates a tiny home sale that the buyer claims is a huge nightmare.
An Orange County woman thought the mini home was perfect for her adult disabled son, but she called consumer investigator Todd Ulrich claiming the builder couldn't deliver a home her son could live in.
The tiny home is 200 square feet, with a kitchen, bath and bedroom.
“So, I thought the tiny house was the solution to everything,” said Caroline McDonald.
McDonald wanted to buy the tiny home for her son Derek, disabled by spina bifida, to give him independence.
They found ABC Tiny Houses in Rockledge and builder Sue Ercolani.
“Could she build a house that would accommodate his disability?” Ulrich asked.
“She said exactly that, ‘We can make it happen,'” said McDonald.
According to McDonald, the builder would get some donated supplies to make it affordable. She paid two deposits totaling $11,000 toward the $29,000 price, but claims that within two months, the tiny home project was a huge mess.
“I said, ‘Stop all construction.' I said, ‘Ot's not a deal,’” McDonald said.
McDonald said they discovered the home was built without blueprints and some requested materials and it lacked full disability access, like a washer/dryer on an elevated platform Derek could not use.
“Would you face challenges because of the way it's built?” asked Ulrich.
“Of course, definite physical challenges. It would have been a challenge every single day,” Derek said.
The family claims the company threatened to sue them for nonperformance and demanded another $11,000 for a home they didn't want.
Ulrich went looking for answers at the ABC Tiny Houses’ office.
“I've got questions about Derek McDonald and how much he paid for a tiny home?” Ulrich said.
"I'm not part of Tiny Homes, please turn that off," the unidentified woman said. The woman showed Ulrich sales documents and disputed the buyer's claims.
Company owner Sue Ercolani said she built the home for a disabled person and blames Derek's mom for big changes and canceling last minute.
The McDonalds sent a complaint to state regulators.
"I don't know what happened," said McDonald.
The company said it built the unit at cost to help Derek but he never called to cancel. ABC Tiny Houses feels it's done nothing wrong, and could consider a refund if the home is sold to someone else.
ABC Tiny Houses' response:
What began as an opportunity for ABC Tiny Houses, LLC to do a “good deed” has resulted in an unwarranted investigation through WFTV Channel 9. What has transpired is very clear and simple; our customer is in breach of his contract with us. This project has been ongoing for the past 6 months; therefore, it is not a “buyer’s remorse” situation. Ms. McDonald’s accusations concerning our inability to accommodate our customer’s disability is completely false, and for her to insist that we were taking advantage a disabled person is disgusting. I was only contracted to make the interior modifications, to Derek and his mother’s specifications.
From the beginning, it was our customer Derek's' desire to own a simple home. All he requested was a full-size washer and dryer, a tall toilet, bookshelves, a Bio-Hazardous Waste Disposal System, hand rails in the bathroom, and limited electricity (as it affected his health). In fact, due to Derek's restricted budget, all parties were in agreement that ABC Tiny Houses would choose the flooring, cabinets, lighting, hardware, and doors within a grey and white color scheme. Derek chose the exterior color. Ms. McDonald mentioned wanting to have CAD drawings rendered. However, I explained that since we are a small company, we don't have the capacity to do that. I did give her the option of having them done by a third party at her own expense. She elected to forfeit having new drawings made, based on the fact that we were building an existing model for Derek, with the interior modifications mentioned above. From the beginning, it was made very clear that this was not a "custom" Tiny House. We were offering our track version of the Wellington Model with custom upgrades to accommodate Derek's disabilities. The stairs/ramp, and the bio-hazardous waste disposal system were to be added once the Tiny House was delivered to the final site due to DOT regulations.
At this point, it has cost us to build this home for Derek. The original starting price for this Tiny Home is $35,600.00 without modifications or upgrades. We were not going to make a profit from this build, however, we didn't expect it to cost us either. We've made every effort to stay within Derek's budget of $25,000.00, while including the modifications he NEEDS in order to live independently. Both parties agreed on the final purchase price of $27,600.00. At this price point, the discounted amount is significant.
On December 1st, Caroline called and canceled the build. Also, on December 1st she canceled the lot space in College Park. This was verified by the owner of College Park. We attempted to contact Derek, however he never responded. On December 19th, we sent a certified letter to Derek, requesting payment so we may complete the final phase of the build. We asked he respond by January 8th. We received no response.
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