Willowbrook homeowners organize regional protest of KB Home

nwilliams@bradenton.comNovember 15, 2012 

MANATEE -- Dozens of frustrated homeowners living in KB Home communities across Central Florida, including Willowbrook in East Manatee, will protest outside one of the multibillion dollar company's developments in Hillsborough County at 10:30 a.m. Saturday .

As many as 100 homeowners representing more than a dozen KB Home communities across the Tampa Bay Area are anticipated to gather outside of Tangle Preserve in Gibsonton, which is located at the southeastern end of Hillsborough County, just a few miles north of the Manatee County line.

"Our purpose is to inform anybody thinking about buying there to do their research," said Dan Koehler, a Willowbrook resident. "Don't get caught up in this nightmare like we did."

The protest is being organized by Willowbrook residents who requested the nationwide developer buy back their units. Some Willowbrook residents have issues of sinking floors, separating window frames, loose hand rails on the balcony, wall moisture and mold due to water intrusion from the second and third floor balconies.

Manatee County building inspectors have surveyed the problems since August and have ruled 40 of roughly 80 balconies are unsafe to occupy.

Over the last few months, Willowbrook residents have taken their case to Manatee County and state government officials. State Sen. Mike Bennett requested the Florida Attorney General investigate possible fraudulent practices by KB Home. Whis

tleblowers involved with KB Home lawsuits have come forward, asking Florida officials to do the same.

During that time, KB Home owners from Clearwater, Tampa, Polk and Hillsborough counties, and as far west as California have contacted the Herald to relate similar problems with KB Home.

In Clearwater, Bryson Bort and a number of homeowners living in the Waterford town home community have been battling with KB Home over damage to their homes. Bort has filed a lawsuit against KB Home in Pinellas County court, alleging a breach of contract for selling a home with construction defects and conducting unfair trade practices. The Palm River town home community in Tampa has had issues with toxic drywall dating back to 2009 when defective Chinese-made drywall was discovered in some of the units.

Marla Russell purchased her home in 2006 and has had problems with rotting floors, crumbling balconies and mold. Like the homeowners in Willowbrook, she requested KB Home buy back her unit.

Tony Allen, who owns a home inside the Preserve at Sundance in Polk County, said KB Home had to rebuild his roof and walls due to rotting wood and mold. Allen said he was forced to live in a hotel for seven months at the expense of KB Home, and when he returned to his house, discovered more issues. Allen said his water line was not reconnected properly and KB Home did not pay for the electricity it used during reconstruction.

"The company is the common denominator in the entire thing," said Armando Oyola-Delgago, a Willowbrook resident. "Nobody is holding them responsible."

Months ago, Willowbrook residents protested outside a KB Home community in Bradenton. The residents are hoping to bring nationwide attention to what they believe are unfair practices by the company.

"This isn't only about KB Home," Oyola-Delgado said. "Now, we're at the point where we're just trying to make them and all builders responsible for their product. We want a lemon law to go to the Legislature. It worked for the car industry."

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

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