Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune
By SHANNON BEHNKEN
September 11, 2012
BRADENTON -- Homeowners in the Willowbrook neighborhood, near Lakewood Ranch, have been trying for months to get their builder to buy back their condos. They say mold and collapsing balconies are so bad the homes can't be saved.
This week, KB Home Regional President George Glance appeared before the Manatee County Commission to answer questions and announce an agreement with Willowbrook's homeowners association.
It was not welcome news to many homeowners.
Brandon Crismon says KB already has repaired his home — 21 times — and he doesn't trust the builder. He says the agreement was made in secret and the homeowners association hasn't provided any details.
"We'd like to know in the agreement which things are they going to cover and which things are they going to pass off on us," Crismon said.
This is the newest twist in an ongoing saga involving dozens of Willowbrook homeowners who say KB Home sold them lemons and won't make things right.
Many recently learned they have limited recourse because of a no-sue clause in their purchase contracts.
Neighborhood leaders say at least 60 homeowners say they have problems.
Many say they have complained for years but received only "Band-Aid" repairs from the builder. Recent storms sent some balconies crashing to the ground, causing county officials to deem more than 30 of the units unsafe.
The mold is especially scary for Crismon because his wife has cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung disease aggravated by mold.
"When I've made it aware to KB that she's got these health issues, their response to me is, 'If you're so worried about it, just move out,' " Crismon said.
Crismon said KB fixed leaks when he reported them over the years but that the problem always came back.
"It's been every single window, every single expansion joint. It's been every place you could imagine, water's come in," Crismon said.
He has pictures that show mold beneath drywall around windows. He says KB fixed the leaks but left the mold, covering it up with new drywall.
KB won't answer specific questions but says it stands behind its product and will work to fix problems.
"We're going use their contractor, their engineers and a mutually agreed upon third-party inspection," Glance told the commission, adding that KB is not going to buy back the homes.
KB and county inspectors have said they can verify structural problems with the balconies but no other structural problems.
But a general contractor, hired by a homeowner to find out why her condo had so many problems, said he found scores of construction issues.
That contractor, Michael Hamilton, of CMM Commercial Contractors Inc., said he found outside wallboards not nailed down, missing hurricane straps and mold deep within walls.
Hamilton fears the other condos in the neighborhood were built the same way, and that might explain leaks and mold complaints from neighbors.
"I feel people are in danger," Hamilton said.
Homeowners claim their KB homes are falling