Email glitch scuttles couple’s dream of new home
By Mike Nolan email@example.com October 25, 2013 8:18PM
Sitaara Shabazz, center, with her fiancee, Jeremy Jones and their 7-year-old son, Camri, outside Sheffield Square in Orland Park. An apparent computer glitch derailed their plans to have a townhome built in the development, and the couple are seeking the return of $3,000 in earnest money they paid to Sheffield's developer, M/I Homes. Mike Nolan Sun-Times Media.
Updated: November 30, 2013 7:46PM
If not for an email spam filter, Jeremy Jones and his fiancee, Sitaara Shabazz, say they’d now be looking forward to moving into their new townhome in Orland Park.
The 25-year-olds, who plan to marry next Valentine’s Day, now are out $3,000 in earnest money they put down toward their home. An attorney they hired to help them with the transaction is working to get their money back.
“We were really excited, really gung ho,” about the prospect of their new home, Shabazz said.
In April, the couple — who both grew up in Flossmoor, where they now live — agreed to buy a lot and have a townhome built in M/I Homes’ Sheffield Square, on the north side of 153rd Street just west of the Metra station.
They have a 7-year-old son, Camri, and were attracted to the development in part because of the quality of Orland’s schools, Shabazz said.
“We really liked the schools in the area,” said Shabazz, who recently earned her master’s degree in education from DePaul University and hopes to teach in an elementary school.
Once they’d gotten a signed, authorized contract from M/I, they’d have seven days to have their lawyer look it over.
After some time lapsed and they hadn’t heard word, they contacted the company, only to find out the contract had been emailed to them days earlier.
Sequestered as spam, the email went unnoticed, and by the time the couple were aware of it, it was too late to have their lawyer, Thomas Murphy, review it. They said their request for additional time was denied, and they were nervous about signing their names to a thick legal document without their attorney’s advice.
Jones and Shabazz said that they, along with their attorney and a real estate agent who is working with them, were supposed to have been notified by mail that the contract had been approved.
In a letter to M/I, Murphy questioned the delivery method, asking if it would, in the eyes of a judge, be considered “sufficient notice.” Shabazz also described as “very odd” how she and Jeremy were notified.
In a June letter to Murphy, Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes’ Chicago division, said a copy of the contract had been emailed to the attorney on May 2, the same day it was sent to Jones and Shabazz.
Shabazz said the attorney claimed he never received the email. Murphy did not return calls seeking comment.
Bonk said the couple and M/I did have an agreement in place and that M/I “adhered to the terms and conditions” of the agreement, although the company isn’t building a townhome for them.
She said she was not certain whether the company had agreed to provide the couple or their attorney the contract in a form other than email.
What legally constitutes delivery of the contract is the issue, according to Paul Garver, a real estate attorney with the Hinsdale firm Hawbecker & Garver.
Although not in a position to comment directly on Jones’ and Shabazz’s predicament, Garver said there are no state statutes governing how real estate sales contracts are to be exchanged between buyers and sellers.
He ventured that although the couple’s spam filter prevented them from immediately seeing M/I’s contract, “I think that might technically be (considered) received.”
“Despite being filtered, it’s common knowledge that you should be checking your spam folder,” Garver said.
The company, the couple said, is keeping the $3,000 in earnest money, claiming it had to temporarily withdraw the property from the market.
While Bonk, in her letter to Murphy, offered to apply the couple’s earnest money toward the purchase of another property at Sheffield, the couple said they were not keen to accept it.
The couple filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, which they said M/I did not respond to, and are seeking to recoup their earnest money in small claims court.