Lennar builds shoddy homes

The front page of the San Francisco Bay Guardian for March 14 proclaimed Lennar “the corporation that ate San Francisco.” Before they take another bite, let’s run ‘em out of town!

by Mike Morgan

Editor’s note. Long time Bay View readers will remember that years ago, when Lennar was an unfamiliar name in San Francisco, we exposed Lennar’s corruption, incompetence and racism by telling some stories reported by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Miami Herald — like the story about the hundreds of homes in Florida bought by Black families that, they later learned, Lennar had built on top of its own toxic dump. Lennar hasn’tlearned. Here are some more recent Lennar horror stories.

In a construction industry article in South Florida’s Daily Business Review about construction delays, defects and litigation, one of Lennar Corp.’s attorneys, Michael Kreitzer with the firm of Bilzin Sumberg, noted: “You have job superintendents now acting as construction managers. They have never done that before. There simply isn’t the talent out there to handle these jobs. So there are delays, and the quality is not there.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If the quality is not there, a company then needs to pay special attention to customer service and addressing problems raised by homeowners. What do you tell Alexis and Victoria Ugalde, who lost their father when he was electrocuted in a brand new Lennar home that was defective?

Their father was electrocuted on little Victoria’s first birthday. One would think Lennar would take care of this family and do the right thing. Not so. And now the Ugalde family is fighting Lennar to right this wrong … or at least compensate them for the loss of their father, husband and breadwinner.

Anyone taking the time to read some of the Lennar homeowner stories on my website, www.DefectiveHomes.org, will see how Lennar has turned the American Dream into the American Nightmare for far too many homeowners. Most of these folks don’t have the ability to fight Lennar, and once they close on their homes, they are forced into an arbitration process. Lennar’s contracts prohibit most of these owners from going to court to address the issues.

Are the problems limited to specific areas of the country? No. There are links on my website to several lawsuits in California. Most recently, a group of San Francisco residents filed a class action against Lennar.

Here is what Sen. Elizabeth Dole had to say about defective homes and the power of the big builders: “(F)or too many Americans, the dream home has turned into a nightmare. You know as well as I do that as families move into their own little Garden of Eden, more and more are finding the apple full of worms. As a result, some homebuyers believe they are being bilked for thousands of dollars, and they are expressing not only anguish but outrage.

“Shoddy building practices can be concealed from many purchasers who cannot be expected to have the technical expertise to evaluate the structural soundness of a home or the quality of electrical, plumbing or air conditioning systems …. The patience of the American consumer is rapidly running out.

“Consumers are demanding more protection from the government, not LESS. The consumer movement is no longer made up of small bands of activists with no troops standing behind them; the consumer movement is now part of our culture — it embraces every one of us. And it will not be denied over an issue so fundamental as decent housing.”

Is this a new problem? No. In fact, Sen. Dole made the comment above in 1979 when she was a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission — more than 18 years ago!

Most people in California know of Erin Brockovich and the movie starring Julia Roberts. Erin was recently in South Carolina to meet with Lennar homeowners complaining of defective homes and issues who brought the EPA in to investigate. Erin was there representing her California law firm. I was told she also brought in a large New York firm and one of the Carolinas’ largest law firms.

But why does it have to get to this level? It doesn’t. If Lennar Corp. cared more about building the American Dream than they care about the bottom line, all of these problems would be caught during construction.

Here are a few comments I received from Lennar homeowners. There are many more on my website:

Nightmare home: “We have been living the Lennar nightmare for seven years. We are original owners with perpetual water intrusion. Our story aired on CBS 13 a few weeks ago. I am trying to organize my neighbors (168 defective homes) and share information in hopes that together we can make a difference before our 10-year warranty expires. All the stories on your website are horrifying. We are absolutely devastated. I am writing from Novato, California.” — Tamara

Family pet dies: “Furnace has been leaking what I thought was water since November of ‘06. It’s now June, and Lennar finally sent someone to check it out. The service tech found an instruction manual for how to install roof flashing shoved in our furnace and water heater flue. Said the puddling at the furnace was not water but probably liquid carbon monoxide! In December our perfectly healthy dog died (he slept in the basement where the furnace is), and my 7-year-old son has been unexplainably sick for months.” — Renee in Colorado

Dream home falling apart: “It was supposed to be our dream home, but instead we purchased a home that immediately began falling apart. I cannot even begin to tell you how disappointed we are in Lennar. Lennar has failed to live up to its claim of building an exceptional home and community. If one home in this community was poorly built we would understand, but for every resident to experience issue after issue.” — Lennar homeowner in New Jersey

Lennar tries to settle: “Bought a home from Lennar — walls, ceiling out of plumb, resulting in flooring, trim, windows and doors, cabinets and finished surfaces all being installed improperly — not sure if whole foundation is off as was suggested to me. Lennar sent an architect to evaluate. He agreed to an extent (that they pressured him to limit findings) that there are issues in my home. Lennar gave me a low ball settlement offer contingent on a full release (including things not covered by settlement).” — Anthony in California

Pack the hearing rooms!

Monday, July 9: District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, long a Lennar cheerleader, has finally agreed to hold a hearing “to consider the community concerns regarding Lennar’s work procedures as they relate to dust control and health issues arising in Hunters Point Shipyard.” Pack the hearing in Room 263, City Hall. Get there early, at noon.

Tuesday, July 10: Testify against another polluting power plant coming “anywhere near our community.” says Marie Harrison. “It is not fair that we should have to fight to close down the old Hunters Point plant just to have a new one replace it. Let SF know enough is enough!” Pack Room 400, City Hall, at 1:30 p.m.

Contact Mike Morgan at Mike@DefectiveHomes.org and www.DefectiveHomes.org.