Residents 'mad' over home repairs

Homeowners in a subdivision say it's in need of repairs


Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Oct. 17, 2004

Someone is pretty upset with the folks who built Davie's Madison Lakes townhome development.

It seems a disgruntled owner may have altered the sign that welcomes visitors. Madison Lakes now reads ``Mad Lakes.''

The sign has become a symbol for the increasingly nasty clash between Madison Lakes developer Mark Landau and several residents in the 45-unit development. Residents claim poor construction has left them with leaky baseboards, cracked concrete slabs, and growing mold.

Landau blames the problems on neighborhood troublemakers who caused leaks by drilling holes in concrete blocks for hurricane shutters. In a recent letter to residents that accused one resident of playing ''amateur inspector,'' he said he's willing to buy back any home at its original price.

But Madison Lakes homeowners say they just want nice houses on a tranquil lake, not smear campaigns and legal battles. So far, two have filed complaints with Broward County's Consumer Affairs Division, and others have petitioned the Davie Town Council for help.

''I'm not trying to be Erin Brockovich,'' said Sheila Payerl, a resident who became a vocal critic of Landau after she found water seeping up through the floors of her home, a possible indication that the soil outside was placed above floor level.

After asking Landau to fix the problem, Payerl sought intervention from Davie leaders and Gov. Jeb Bush's office. The developer eventually re-graded her yard in early October. But Payerl said workers broke the sprinkler system in the process and left pipes sticking out of the dirt.

''No one wins in a war, and no one should ever start a war,'' Payerl said.

But war, or at least bitter conflict, is what they have. In the past year, police have been called twice to respond to altercations in the neighborhood between the developer and residents No one was charged in either incident.

Resident Janes Sims, a retired contractor, said his dream home has became a nightmare.

''I thought we were buying quiet enjoyment, but that's not what we got,'' he said. His initial list -- repairs and alterations requested when he moved in more than a year ago -- has yet to be completed.

''All we wanted them to do was fix the stuff and be honorable people,'' said Carolyn Clark, who lives down the street from Sims.

Unwilling to stay in Madison Lakes, both Sims and Payerl have put their homes up for sale. Sims has found a buyer but plans to pursue his complaint against the developers.

He and Payerl have filed legal paperwork demanding that Landau make repairs or face a lawsuit. State law requires these demands before a suit can go to court in this type of case.

Sims believes Davie town leaders can quickly resolve the problem by ensuring that only licensed contractors work on the homes.

He has alleged that Landau, who does not have a general contractor's license, has been hiring unqualified laborers to paint walls and hang doors in Madison Lakes. He and other neighbors, including Payerl and Clark, say unlicensed handymen recruited by Landau have been sent to their homes.

In a phone interview this week, Landau said his company, Madison Lakes Development Corp., hired subcontractors but also maintained that licensed contractor Ghasem Khavanin of American Engineering & Construction Inc. has handled all subcontracting in the development.

Calls to the state's Department of Professions and Regulations revealed that American Engineering & Construction does not have a qualified business license, a violation of state policy, Deputy Director Jerry Wilson said.

Calls to American's office and to Khavanin from The Herald went unanswered last week.