HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. -- "This was going to be the house we would share our life with, raise our kids, they would grow up in," but it's a forever home no more according to Jullian Rhyner.
She and her family moved out of their North Carolina home earlier this year after they hired a company to do mold testing.
The Rhyners moved into their new construction home in Holly Springs in 2017.
"Being able to move here and build this home and one that accommodated his disability felt. It felt exciting." It was an exciting start for the Rhyners after years of heartache. "It was a pretty severe injury ... obviously creating a lifelong disability."
Jillian's husband, retired Master Sgt. Zac Rhyner, a decorated war veteran with an Air Force cross, two purple hearts, a bronze star and the Air Force combat action medal, was shot in his right leg while deployed in Afghanistan. The bullet shattered his right femur and severed his sciatic nerve.
The Rhyners' new home was a fresh start for the family.
"A new chapter where he was going to go back to school and, you know, our family could grow and move on from the kind of the traumatic injury and military life that he had to leave behind because the military was very important to him," Jillian said.
Everything was going great with the new home until three years after they bought it, in April of 2020.
"I was hearing this hissing in our bathroom, kind of it was gradually getting worse over the course of the day." Eventually, a water pipe burst behind their main bathroom wall. The Rhyner's builder, Robuck Homes, took responsibility even texting her a picture of the issue.
"It was a builder nail in the molding around the mirror that had punctured the pipe when they built it had it been slowly leaking. You could smell the mold and the mildew in the wall. They never questioned their liability on it. They said it was clearly, clearly our fault and we will hire a company to fix it."
Which was a relief to the Rhyners, as at the time Jillian was pregnant with her third child.
"I reminded them I was allergic to mold. I'm eight months pregnant. I don't want an issue with mold, like just please get it and they assured me that they did."
But several months after the pipe was fixed, the Rhyners had their air ducts cleaned.
"We found mold in all the air ducts on the first floor," Jillian said. The family paid to have all of the ductwork replaced and then also hired, a national company to inspect and test for mold in their home.
Rhyner said that the company found water damage and mold in the attic and crawlspace. The company determined the home was not safe for people to live inside.
The Rhyners then got a quote on how much it would cost to fix the problem once and for all.
"Just the mold remediation alone was $178,000 and that did not include the cost to build everything back," Jillian said.
Besides the financial shock, a bigger concern for Jillian was the safety of her home.
"We knew it wasn't good for our health to stay here anymore. So that became my top priority was to find a rental and to get out."
The Rhyners moved out of what was supposed to be their forever home at the beginning of 2022. They hired an attorney because they want their builder Robuck Homes to take responsibility, as Jillian says she feels the issue with the nail in the water pipe during construction caused these latest issues. "I don't feel like they remediated it properly, contained the environment properly and I think it re-contaminated our home."
According to a letter from Robuck Homes' attorney, the builder did agree to buy back the Rhyners' home at market value but admitted no liability, it's an offer the Rhyners rejected.
"The offer to us...was minimal. It wouldn't have made us whole and it would have left us without a home." Instead, Rhyner wants to tear down the home and rebuild it.
"I mean we love this community; we love our neighbors; we want to stay."
Chip Bishop the General Manager of Robuck Homes responded via email saying in part, "Robuck Homes stands proudly by our craftsmanship and by our customer service. It is our belief that our craft is not only in the quality product we build but also in the relationships that we form with our homeowners. In many ways, that is what is so disappointing about this situation. We have never shied away from addressing problems should they arise in one of our homes. In fact, we resolved each issue that Mrs. Rhyner raised with us. If the Rhyners had shared their concerns with us about the potential organic growth in their home before February of this year, we would have been able to investigate the situation and take appropriate action if warranted. Please let me reassure you that if any Robuck Homes customer has a material problem with their home, we will do everything we can to address it. All we ask is that they inform us of the issue in a timely manner. We stand by our work, and we will do what is right if given the opportunity in a timely fashion. We have cared for our customers with respect and honor for almost a century, and we always will."
When it comes to the water pipe that burst three years after the Rhyners moved in, Bishop adds, "Thankfully, they were able to quickly shut off the water. Despite staffing constraints in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, within days we had a company that specializes in addressing water damage at the home. Within several weeks, the home was dried and repaired to like-new condition. All indications at the time were that this issue was resolved satisfactorily. We heard nothing further from the Rhyners - regarding potential organic growth or any concerns with the repair itself - until 21 months later when we received a 10-page demand letter from their attorney at Smith Currie. If the Rhyners had shared their concerns with us about the potential organic growth, or the quality of these repairs, before February of this year, we would have been able to investigate the situation and take appropriate action if warranted."
Robuck Homes did offer to buy back the Rhyner's home and Bishop says, "Robuck Homes stands proudly by our craftsmanship and by our customer service. Once we were alerted to potential organic growth in the Rhyners' home this February, we met with Mrs. Rhyner and her attorney. It has since become clear that there is little we can do to make Mrs. Rhyner comfortable with the home. Upon later reflection, and despite not being allowed so much as a visual inspection of the home, we offered what we believed was a prompt and very reasonable resolution to allow Mrs. Rhyner to move forward and no longer have to deal with the conditions she has described in the home."
The Rhyners have agreed to let Robuck Homes inspect their home, under certain stipulations. Bishop says he believes that will happen soon and they remain hopeful they can reach a reasonable resolution with the Rhyners. He adds, "We would still welcome the opportunity to resolve this issue reasonably with Mrs. Rhyner. We stand by our work, including the work of our trade partners, and we will do what is right if given the opportunity. All we ask is that homeowners alert us to the issues in a timely manner. We have cared for our customers with respect and honor for almost a century, and we always will."
When it comes to the Rhyners, despite the financial hardship of paying for a mortgage on this home they're not living in, plus paying rent on another home, Jillian says she's thankful she did the mold testing. She adds, "It makes me sick to think if I hadn't followed my gut and done the testing, and we stayed like what would have had to happen. Before we knew how bad it was. I'm glad I followed my gut and went ahead with the testing because I really just don't want to think about what if, what would have happened."
We will keep you updated if there are any new developments between the Rhyners and Robuck Homes.