Another Gilbert house, another nightmare

Police officer and wife also suing builder

August 08, 1999|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Terry and Marta Mangum aren't the only Maryland couple who hired builder Blair Gilbert and ended up with an unfinished house and a pending lawsuit.

Richard and Monica Siegelman of Elkridge contracted with Gilbert in January 1998 to build a 2,200-square-foot steel-frame house in Pasadena. The house was to be finished in July 1998.

"We liked the advantages to building with steel," Monica Siegelman said. "There are no termites and no cracks in walls.

"And we liked that, with Gilbert, we were dealing with the builder directly."

But their house never got off the ground. Construction was delayed three months. When the steel frame arrived, it was for a different model. Meanwhile, the foundation was crumbling. The Siegelmans fired Gilbert in August 1998 and filed a nine-count lawsuit alleging fraud and damages against Axxent Building & Construction. The Siegelmans are also suing to be included on a list of creditors in Gilbert's Chapter 7 bankruptcy. "The whole thing is a mess," said Monica Siegelman.

Unlike the Mangums, the Siegelmans called the Better Business Bureau to find out whether Gilbert was a reputable builder. "Nobody had anything on him," said Richard Siegelman, a Rockville police officer who works in drug enforcement. "They told me that could mean one of two things: either he was a new builder or he's had no complaints."

They decided to give Gilbert a chance. "Here's a guy who had built his home and was building two more," Richard Siegelman said. "What's there not to trust?"

The Siegelmans tried to sell the steel frame from the house Gilbert was going to build but could not. Instead, they donated it to Habitat for Humanity.

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