Selling the Florida mansion of former Innovative owner Jeffrey Prosser and his wife, Dawn, continues to be an event fraught with conflict—this time thanks to an allegedly overzealous building inspector.
After years of successfully staving off efforts to sell their two mansions, in Florida and on St. Croix, the Prossers had to let would-be buyers and house inspectors visit the place in West Palm Beach on Feb. 4; the bankruptcy court had so ordered.
Apparently that’s when the trouble began.
“One of the first [building] inspectors,” according to a document Prosser’s lawyers filed with the court later, “began … despite Mr. Prosser’s then expressed concern to the inspector … to drill holes in the interior walls of the Palm Beach residence.”
“These holes were then plugged with white plugs, approximately half an inch in diameter . . . Based upon statements made by the drilling ‘inspector’ it was apparent that drilling holes was his intended procedure. Additionally, when asked about repair costs, the inspector responded simply, that was not his responsibility,” the document continued.
The Prossers reportedly took a photo of the plug, and their lawyers attached it to the brief.
The story would have had less mystery and heightened plausibility if: the motivation for the drilling had been described, the name of the inspector been provided, and the name of the inspector’s employer or client had been included.
But all three of these elements were missing from the court document.
Now, it is well known that Florida has termites, and that drilling holes in the walls of a house to poison them is standard operating procedure. Further, people thinking about buying a house often hire termite inspectors. But do you drill holes—over the objection of the householder—as part of a termite inspection process?
The Source asked a couple of exterminators on the Mainland about this. Both said that drilling was often part of the treatment, but not the inspection process. One respondent said, “Well maybe some other people do that, but we don’t.”
The lady from Orkin was a little less adamant, saying “that sounds highly unusual,” and “all houses are different.” When I asked if an Orkin operative would do that over the objections of the residents, she said “I certainly would hope not.”
It is possible, of course, that the inspector was drilling for some other reason.
The Bank of America, which holds the mortgage on the Palm Beach mansion, also filed papers with the court, seeking quick payment of its mortgage. The Bank noted that the court had ordered an auction for March 1 to see if there were any bidders that could top the current high bidder, an anonymous buyer who has offered $7.95 million.
There was enough interest in the place so that three other parties of bidders were expected to visit the place on Feb. 11, a prospect that the Prosser lawyers described with ill-concealed alarm.
The Bank revealed that it is owed a total of $5.77 million in principal, interest, insurance, and legal fees; and that for three years now it had not been getting its monthly payments of $27,559. Other lawyers writing about this situation usually point out that the Prossers have been living, cost-free, in both the Palm Beach and St. Croix mansions for the last three years.
Most foreclosures—and there have been many recently since the economic downturn—go much more quickly and do not involve sustained court battles.
But then, unlike the Prossers, most foreclosees do not have a team of four law firms on their side.