Action 9 investigates new homes rotting from the inside

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ORLANDO,Fla. —

They bought their homes new just five to 10 years ago, but now claim they’re rotting away and blame defective stucco.

Action 9 found thousands of homes constructed during the building boom have cracked stucco, rotting wood, and mold.

Action 9’s Todd Ulrich said it could be a $1 billion statewide problem, and many owners are only recently discovering the problem.

Rotting wood, easily shredding inside townhome walls just 5 years old was found in the Berkshire Place community in Windermere. Testing found water intrusion in many homes. The owners’ engineer blames defective stucco.

“I’m scared, I’m afraid,” said Bonnie Byars. She claims cracking stucco triggered mold so bad one bedroom can’t be used. “I keep an inhaler next to my bed.”

The past HOA president claims Pulte Homes refuses to make repairs. “You’re scared what could happen if you don’t get things fixed,” said Jeffrey Tepper.

Action 9 found several communities face stucco nightmares.

“Do you think its defective construction?” asked Ulrich.

“I do, yeah I do,” replied Alonzo Skerret. He says his stucco bubbled and cracked and repairs haven’t fixed his Meritage Home. He blames the construction boom from 2004 to 2010 that was not properly supervised. “If you have to cut corners along the way that’s basically what happened,” said Skerret.

Mechanical Engineer Kerei Alexander with KA Inspections told Action 9 many home builders used watered-down stucco and applied the concrete coating way too thin. “Then water works its way underneath and starts decaying the wood and goes up and under until entire wall is rotted out,” said Alexander.

What seems alarming is there were no stucco inspections by regulators required during home construction. So it was up to the builder to get it right.

One structural engineer recently told a Florida house committee that boom time defects could add up to a $1 billion stucco nightmare statewide. “Across the board in all the inspections we do, every single builder we investigated has the same stucco issue,” said Thomas Miller.

Repairing stucco defects could cost 50,000 or more for each home.

“I’m stuck with it,” said homeowner Bonnie Byars.

Pulte Homes and Meritage Homes deny wrongdoing, but say they’re committed to working with homeowners.

KB Homes just settled a massive stucco damage case with the Florida attorney general.

 

OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM MERITAGE HOMES

“Meritage Homes is committed to building beautiful, well-constructed homes. As a demonstration of this commitment, all new construction homes are under warranty. Materials and workmanship are warranted for one year from the time of closing; mechanical systems are warranted for two years from closing; and structural elements of the home are warranted for ten years from closing. Homebuyers are given a copy of the warranty during the contract and closing phases of their purchase.

In order for homes to perform as designed, they need to be maintained. For that reason, in addition to the warranty, Meritage also provides homebuyers with a 26-page “guide” to taking care of their new home. Tips for stucco maintenance are included in this document. Significant issues can be prevented with general home maintenance.

In reference specifically to the home in question: The home was purchased in 2006, and Meritage received a request regarding the stucco from the homebuyer in 2010. While not covered under warranty, Meritage repaired the stucco crack as a courtesy in less than a month after receiving the initial communication.

Meritage Homes has been building homes with superior care and craftsmanship for 30 years – and remains committed to these founding principles.”

– Brian Kittle, President of Meritage Homes Orlando Division

PULTE HOMES written response:

Pulte Homes is aware of the issues in this community and we have been proactively trying to resolve these issues with our residents. We have expressed on numerous occasions our commitment to honor our warranty and address all warrantable items, and that we are ready and willing to work with the residents towards a reasonable solution to the issues that some homeowners have encountered in their homes. In fact, a mediation is currently scheduled for this week. We are hopeful that a reasonable solution can be achieved at the mediation to appropriately address their concerns without litigation. In the event a mediated resolution cannot be achieved at the upcoming mediation session, Pulte Homes will remain committed to exploring all reasonable opportunities to address the concerns of the owners.

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