More homes ruled unsafe inside Willowbrook condos in East Manatee

nwilliams@bradenton.comAugust 7, 2012 

EAST MANATEE -- Manatee County government inspectors deemed 10 more homes unsafe Monday inside the Willowbrook gated condominium community.

County inspectors ruled two other homes unsafe on Friday.

The unsafe town homes show signs of sinking floors, loose hand rails and possible water intrusion on the balconies. The damages to the exterior structures may have also affected interior structures in some cases, said Jon Betcher, county inspections manager. Betcher said he saw signs of residual damage from water and deterioration.

The condos have warning signs posted on the front entrance, alerting occupants and visitors of the danger involved with entering the residence.

People living in the 270-unit community have complained of mold and interior damage due to water intrusion. One resident's floor has fallen through.

Several homeowners have requested KB Home, a California-based home building company, to buy back their condos rather than allow the company to perform repairs. Residents said prior repairs by KB Home did little to correct the damages.

County inspectors will inspect more homes inside the community this week.

The Willowbrook condo association is responsible for all exterior structure outside the living area. The association must now submit a permit to the county for the repairs. KB Home has acknowledged receiving a claim from the association, but the details of that claim have not been made available.

Calls and emails made to the Willowbrook Association board members have not been returned. KB Home has not commented further on the claim.

The community is managed by The Continental Group, a Florida-based company that manages 1,500 associations across the state. TCG is responsible for advising the condo association on specific problems on the property, and all action to be taken is decided by the association. TCG would not comment further due to the pending negotiations between KB Home and the Willowbrook association.

Willowbrook was KB Home's first project in Manatee County. The company announced plans to build the community in 2005 and models opened in 2006. The county approved a certificate of occupancy, certifying the condos met Florida building code requirements. When the community was being constructed, county inspectors were on site to ensure mechanical, electric and building codes were being met.

"When we inspected those units, they met standards of the Florida building code," said John Barnott, director of the county building and services department. "Now, something has happened five years later and I don't know why."

"I feel very badly for the residents there," said Donna Hayes, District 5 county commissioner. "KB Home certainly needs to step up to the plate and do whatever they can."

KB Home has had issues within the county and with other agencies since 2005.

In 2005, the company agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty to the Federal Trade Commission for violating the terms of a 1979 consent order and 1991 consent decree with the FTC. The violation was related to binding arbitration clauses in home warranties.

In 2007, Sarasota-based Turlington Custom Stucco & Plastering and Southeast Framing Inc. of Manatee filed liens against KB Home for subcontracting work done on Willowbrook. Turlington claimed it was owed $852,096 and Southeast Framing claimed it was owed $11,944. Turlington's case is still open while Southeast's claim was dismissed.

The Better Business Bureau headquarters in Colton, Calif., reported KB Home has had 67 complaints in the past three years.

"The residents' safety is always my, and our, priority," said Robin DiSabatino, District 4 county commissioner. "We're all very concerned about it."

If a homeowner or Manatee resident suspects a health or safety issue within a home or neighborhood, they should call the Manatee Building Department at 941-748-4501, ext. 3800 or call the Citizens Action Center at 747-5800.

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams

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