RIVERVIEW, Fla. – As large tract home builders continue to spring up new neighborhoods, lawsuits keep streaming into the courts.
A Riverview couple’s lawsuit against D.R. Horton, filed December 6, is a typical case of discovered construction defects.
Gerardo and Koralys Rivera complain their home has an inadequately installed stucco system which was hard to detect and led to destruction. The lawsuit states, “As a direct and proximate result of the construction defects and violations, the Home has suffered damages not only to the exterior stucco, but also to the underlying metal lath, paper backing, house wrap, water-resistive barriers, sheathing, flashing, paint, interior walls, interior floors and/or other property.”
The complaint files vicarious negligence counts against D.R. Horton due to faulty work of subcontractors 84 Lumber, Bay Plastering, Tradewinds Groups of Central Florida doing business as “GB Painting” and Central Florida Wrap.
In the past two years, D.R. Horton has been the defendant in 41 construction defect cases in Hillsborough County alone.
Neal P. O’Brien, an attorney with Florin Roebig, P.A. in Palm Harbor, spoke to The Free Press about the state of the homebuilding industry. He has filed suits against D.R. Horton, KB Homes, and other builders in recent years. He stated, “I do not believe that D.R. Horton has a disproportionately high number of claims…We see the same issues through most of the large tract home builders across the State.”
O’Brien explained the construction problems are affiliated with too few “qualifying agents” to oversee Florida’s home construction volume, leniency in Florida’s Building Codes, and unsupervised subcontractors who home builders hire to construct the houses.
O’Brien said the “qualifying agents” are the license holders who pull permits to build houses and direct and supervise home construction compliant to Florida’s Building Codes.
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He said there is only a handful of them available for all the builders to use, and as a result, it is impossible for them to oversee the construction of all the new homes properly.
Secondly, he faulted the “Jim Walter” exemption in Florida statutes that allows home builders to hire certain sub-trades that are not licensed contractors – so long as they direct and supervise the construction performed by subcontractors.
Thirdly, he faults the builders and subcontractors for not complying with the Florida Building Code when applying stucco over wood frame construction. He said homeowners should purchase a concrete block house instead of wood and pay for a home inspection before purchase.
O’Brien warned that once the damage is discovered, the homeowner must hire a licensed engineer or contractor before they can file a claim against a home builder.
As it is, the Rivera’s claim a loss in the value of their house.
The Free Press attempted to contact D.R. Horton’s Vice President of Investor and Media Relations, Jessica Hansen, but she could not be reached for comment.
The attorneys for the Rivera’s case are Joshua A. Burnett and Hannah E. Debella of Burnett Law, Tampa.