Lawsuit: Deteriorating Snowmass-area house plagued by landslide zone
The sellers of a Snowmass Village-area home are being sued on allegations they did not disclose to the buyer that the residence is in a landslide zone.
Roger Hollowell, a longtime area ranch manager, filed suit against sellers Steve and Robin Meyer of New Jersey on Friday in Pitkin County District Court.
Hollowell bought the 3,550-square-foot home, located on Medicine Bow Road and built in approximately 1978, for $950,000 in August 2014. He bought the home, however, based on “false and misleading representations” made by the Meyers, who did not disclose the property’s latent defects, the suit alleges.
“It’s put me and my family in a horrible position,” Hollowell said Monday.
The Meyers could not be reached for comment.
“A central issue of this dispute is that Mr. Hollowell invested most of his life savings into this property,” the suit says. “As he discussed with Mr. Meyer, Hollowell intended on investing an additional $250,000 into a remodel of the home. After which, he would either sell or remodel the property before the note came due. During the remodel, he would raise his children in the home, which would allow them to be educated in the prestigious Aspen school district. That dream, which was disclosed to Mr. Meyer before Mr. Hollowell purchased the property, is now unrealizable.”
Hollowell learned that the house was on shaky ground in spring 2016, when “the symptoms of the defect began manifesting themselves in the home after a relatively strong spring runoff. Stairs bent. Floors swelled. And walls started to crack,” alleges the suit, which also notes the Meyers remodeled the home in 2009 to “cosmetically cover up symptoms of the defect in the home.”
The purchase contract also stipulated that the Meyers were required to disclose any of the property’s latent defects, the suit says.
While Hollowell hired a professional inspector to scrutinize the home before he bought it, the “inspection could not and did not uncover the defect,” the suit alleges.
The property’s condition had been known to previous owners as far back as 1987, when an individual bought the home at a reduced cost because the sellers disclosed that it was in an active landslide zone, the suit says.
The Meyers, who bought it for $350,000 in 1996, knew of its defects and managed to have the county reduce its assessed value by 10 percent in 1998 because of the defects, the suit says.
The Meyers also told their neighbors about the reduced property taxes, admitting they have “full knowledge of the defect and its effect on the property,” the suit says.
Hollowell made a $250,000 down payment when he bought the two-story, wood-frame home, while the Meyers financed the remaining $700,000, the suit says.
Hollowell said he is current on his mortgage payments. He said he hasn’t put the property up for sale because “I would take a huge loss.”
Hollowell is aiming to have the deal rescinded or force the Meyers to tear down the house and build a new one. The second scenario, Hollowell said, is iffy because there are no guarantees that a new foundation is sustainable because of the slide zone on which it would be built.
“The house is twisting and twisting apart,” he said.
Hollowell lives there with his wife and three children.
He also expressed frustration that the defect was revealed to previous buyers but not him.
“The disclosure was made to previous owners,” he said. “I’m surprised that doesn’t get attached to the property.”
The suit was filed by Benjamin Johnston of the Glenwood Springs law firm Balcomb & Green PC.
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After this season, the Rifle inmate hand crew will no longer carry out wildfire mitigation projects in Snowmass or the other Roaring Fork Valley communities it regularly works with. The state is set to dissolve it as part of a business reorganization of the Colorado Correctional Industries inmate job skills programs across the state.