guest blog by Deborah Goonan
Let’s face it. There is no shortage of construction defect reports for many homes built in the past decade, and Colorado homeowners seem to have more than their share of shoddy construction.
The focus in the news lately has been on condominiums, with city leaders bucking state law to go around legal protections for homeowners, claiming that if they do not ease up on construction standards, developers won’t be able to build enough “affordable” condos for first-time buyers.
Well, here’s a story of apparent construction defects affecting some pricey single family homes on the outskirts of Frederick, roughly 30 miles north of Denver. It seems Dr. Robert Landry, a veterinarian, his wife and two small children have had to move out of their home. Landry alleges that the family’s Lennar-built “forever home” is uninhabitable, because the foundation is sinking into soft soil, allowing moisture and mold build up, buckling wood floors, and kitchen counters pulling away from the walls.
The homeowner hired an engineer to examine the foundation and crawl space, and to conduct soil testing. The results of recent soil tests indicate that the soil is too soft to support construction of a home. Lennar claims that soil testing done in 2006 indicated a drastically different soil composition that was deemed suitable for construction.
However, in 2013, Colorado saw historic flooding, and Weld County – where Landry’s home is located – was particularly hard hit. Additionally, Frederick has a history of coal mining activity, and in recent years, nearby land has become the site of oil and gas drilling, and the controversial practice of fracking. (the subject of another blog) Several of Landry’s neighbors report similar damage to their homes.
A Google search of Lennar Homes in Frederick indicates the company is no longer building homes in Rinn Valley HOA, the site of Landry’s home. Landry has approached the Town of Frederick and the HOA for assistance, before bringing his story to local media.
Landry contends that new soil testing should have been done following the 2013 floods, prior to breaking ground on his home and others nearby. He questions why the Town of Frederick approved construction and issued occupancy permits for homes built on shifting soils, particularly without drilling deep piers into bedrock to support their foundations. The inspection officer admits that the Town’s policy is to simply accept the Developer’s reports, signed by the builder’s own engineers.
This is common practice in many states – the local government’s development planning officials are mostly paper pushers. As long as the Developer files the required reports with signatures, the project is good to go. And many site inspections are either conducted by the Developer’s chosen experts, or, if conducted by the city or county, such inspections are cursory at best.
In other words, as a home buyer, no one is looking out for your interests.
To add insult to injury, the Attorney hired by Landry says that it is impossible for homeowners to sue Lennar, because the Developer requires arbitration to settle construction defect disputes. Those consumer-hostile terms were written into the sales contracts for all homebuyers. (Similar terms are most likely written into the governing documents for the homeowners association, with regard to defects that occur in the common areas.)
Landry and his neighbors hope to convince Lennar to buy back their homes, so they can move on with their lives.
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