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August Bergman Inn goes to court

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 11:48 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 7:57 a.m. CST

The August Bergman Inn has been a part of Newton since 1907. However, due to some financial issues, the inn has closed.

The current owners of the August Bergman Inn sued former owner Kay Owen and Quality Inspection Services for failure to disclose property issues and failure to properly inspect. Owens was the owner from 1983-2007. Ultimately, the case was dismissed on Dec. 3, leaving the damages to be paid in full by the current owner.

WeeGerk Inc. is currently the owner of the inn, and the company claimed Owen failed to comply to Iowa Code Chapter 558A about property listing damage. WeeGerk stated the following:

“Owen knowingly left out many of the repairs, replacement and problems with the properties from seller disclosure of property condition. Owen also failed to exercise ordinary care to obtain information that she needed in the seller disclosure of property condition.”

John and Ann Gerken are the caretakers of the inn and alleged to have noticed issues within a few months. In three months’ time, the Inn had a termite issue. The Gerkins then allegedly discovered the following additional problems: water damages in bathrooms, ceilings, cracks in walls, packing tape being used to hold up wallpaper and roofing issues. They paid $11,675.65 for repairs, but future repairs are expected to cost them $378,102.62, according to court documents.

In fall 2010, John Gerken requested refinance of the purchase agreement. He wanted to lower the monthly rate because of the recent findings.

Kay Owen’s defense pointed out that the issues were not there at the time of her ownership. Owens and QIS defense lawyers said the following:

“Clearly, the Gerkens were struggling at running a successful business and the properties were not getting the proper maintenance and repair.”

Witness Donna Sandrock stayed at the Inn before Owens sold it. She said Owens told her that she was anxious to sell because of repair issues, and that she did not want to deal with it. Sandrock also claimed that there was a moldy smell in the basement.

Sandrock said the following in court:

“She made a comment when she sells the business; that she hopes it goes under; that she would get it back; and that she could run it again.”

To aid the defense Jolene A. Jenkins, who looked at the property before, said the following in court:

“The properties, in my opinion, when owned by Kay Owens were in good condition for older properties.”

WeeGerk presented pictures showing severity of the damages, but the defense pointed out that harsh winter months could be easily blamed for the damages.

David Alan Remer was on hand the day that the inn was inspected. He said that WeeGerk gave instructions not to inspect the cosmetics of the house. Remer was told that WeeGerk was going to redo the rooms, so it was not a concern of theirs.

He did admit he did find signs of past water damage, but there were no signs of current water damage that he could see. In court Remer said:

“We were instructed to disregard the bubbling because those rooms were going to be rehabbed, refinished, and those issues were not of concern.”

Remer did find an issue with a debris trap that could lead to gas filling the house, but so far there have been no issues reported. The inn passed its most recent fire and safety test.

Judge Terry Richards dismissed the case before the jury could deliberate.

Owens is saddened by the outcome of the inn, formerly called LaCorsette Maison Inn.

“There is a sadness in my heart because LaCorsette Maison Inn was very important to me,” Owens said. “I have many fond memories of all the wonderful people that came to enjoy the beautiful mansion.”

Matthew Shepard can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 425 or via email at mshepard@newtondailynews.com.

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