Flooded house in Northeast Knox County declared uninhabitable

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – One year ago today, a young couple left their flooded home in Northeast Knox County and haven’t returned since.

Their house was declared uninhabitable and they can’t rebuild it because of a new county ordinance.

That’s why they called WATE Six On Your Side Consumer Reporter Don Dare asking for help.

Taking us inside her home was emotionally difficult for Bandy Dunn.

The furniture she and her husband bought 10 months before last February’s devastating storm is ruined. Nearly two feet of floodwater rushed through their newly purchased home destroying their dreams.

“We were sitting at the kitchen table, we looked at each other and water was coming up through our legs and we said, we don’t have flood insurance.”

Brandy Dunn – Homeowner

This home video recorded from their front porch shows how high the water rose and how rapidly it flowed.

“And we just bought the house. It’s all over with. I don’t know what we are going to do now.”

Brandy Dunn

The day after the storm, the results are startling. Their $170,000 home, that they put $37,000 down for, was destroyed.

They never imagined flood water was this destructive. It was the first home purchased by the couple, and everything was lost.

A state geologist report concluded that a sinkhole drainage system just off the edge of their property, couldn’t handle days of continuous rain last year.

Dunn says flash flooding was common in her front yard. What looks like a pile of sticks on the other side of their property line are sinkholes, several of them.

“During the flood, water was coming out of it, it could not tolerate any more water. So, it came up very quickly at that point. It just flooded into the house.”

Brandy Dunn

“This whole area is indicative of sinkhole activity.”

Jim Snowden – Knox County Engineering Director.

Knox County Engineering Director Jim Snowden showed WATE a GIS map of Dunn’s property explaining the water rose 11 feet.

Snowden says the record rains in January and February of 2019 saturated the ground all around the couple’s home.

“So that groundwater is really close to the ground. That sinkhole is just a bathtub, it doesn’t per into the ground like it should.”

Jim Snowden

Last spring, the county posted this notice, “the house was unfit for habitation.”

The property did not qualify for a building permit because of the 11-acre sinkhole and this county’s stricter regulations approved in 2008.

It prohibits building structures within a sinkhole that would be flooded far below the rate of last year’s record rainfall.

So, Dunn and her husband made the difficult decision and stopped paying their mortgage.

“It would be a poor financial decision to pay the mortgage on a house that no one can ever live in again.”

Brandy Dunn

Beginning last fall continuing into January, Quicken Loans sent messages responding to Dunn’s questions about foreclosure or relief.

Quicken wrote, “The review process takes time… A decision has not been mad… We cannot provide definitive answers.”

Earlier this month, WATE contacted Quicken Loans explaining the dilemma.

Within days of our call, a private home inspector hired by Quicken Loans was at the house taking pictures. He had been at the house in December but said now he had a different perspective of the issues.

On February 6, Dunn’s front yard was filled with water from a flash flood during his inspection.

“I’m going to request demo for the property.”

Will Tomb – Home Inspector hired by Quicken Loans

“I’m glad they got out here as soon as you called. We could never have gotten them out here on our own.”

Brandy Dunn

Then last week, Quicken Loans wrote to WATE, “We resolved Ms. Dunn’s highly unusual situation… the mortgage is forgiven.”

The good news comes on the anniversary of last year’s storm, ending one of the toughest years of their marriage.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to everything. This is probably the last time we’ll be here. I’m glad that Quicken relieved us from our loan.”

Brandy Dunn

Their loss amounts to more than $70,000, but Dunn and her husband have a two-year plan.

They are determined to start over again and have a new home by 2022. A home this time, on solid ground.

They are grateful to Quicken Loans for removing the burden of their loan.

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