EAST MANATEE -- After spending some two years repairing the bulk of 272 townhomes at the Willowbrook subdivision, KB Home is says it has satisfied the owners of those homes.
According to some residents, who went through the years-long ordeal to get collapsing balconies, sagging floors and other home issues repaired in the 7-year-old development, that statement is largely true. Last fall, Manatee County and three sets of engineers signed off on the last of the repairs, which were part of a $71 million set of fixes the Los Angeles-based homebuilder made to several Florida subdivisions it built. Ian Parsons, who owns two units in Willowbrook, said he has had renters living in his repaired properties for more than 18 months with no complaints. While he said he has never been compensated for rental income he lost while KB was having the buildings fixed, he is satisfied to have the work done.
"I didn't even try to get any money for that," he said. "That was kind of the least of the worries at the time."
Built between 2007 and 2010 around White Sage Loop at the north end of Town Center Parkway, Willowbrook came onto the market as a moderately priced townhome community. The three-story units in the community sold for as much as about $240,000 when new. Some sold for much less a few years after the subdivision opened, with new units going for around $150,000.
In 2012, residents started reporting structural issues with their homes, including water intrusion and damage, mold and collapsing balcony floors. Manatee County building inspectors deemed dozens of the townhouses unsafe for habitation. KB eventually agreed to fix the problems and started to reconstruct large exterior sections of the homes in January 2013.
Cara Kane, a KB spokeswoman, said that as of last fall 270 units in 51 buildings had been repaired and had received certificates of occupancy. CJ Dupre, Manatee County's building official, said higher quality materials were used to make the repairs than those used in the original construction. A third-party company inspected the work at the subdivision daily. Dupre said he was onsite sever
al times each week.
"I feel very comfortable they got a quality job in the end," he said.
Two weeks ago, KB reached a settlement with the Florida Attorney General's Office over the construction defects, failure to disclose problems to buyers and denial of home-warranty claims for 1,688 homes across the state. Under the agreement, the builder must repair houses that are up to 10 years old and qualify under the terms of the settlement. In addition, KB must provide the attorney general's office with $6.5 million to help repay homeowners who had to pay for their own repairs.
Resident not satisfied
Not every homeowner at Willowbrook is satisfied. In an update memo sent to members of the Manatee County Commissioners and John Barnott, the county's director of building services, said a few residents remain dissatisfied with remediation work or are concerned about other aspects of the original construction.
Patrick McGettigan is one of those residents. Last year, a water leak in his air conditioning system flooded the common wall between his unit at 8745 Spruce Hills Court and his neighbor's townhouse. He said the leak occurred after a construction firm hired by KB finished remediation work on his home. The leak, caused by an incorrectly attached drainage line, dribbled about more than 1,000 gallons of water into the wall over time.
The mold and damage resulted in McGettigan living in a nearby hotel. Between this incident and the repairs KB had to make to the home, he has been out of his house for more than 500 days.
The damaged wall is now open and dry on his side, but McGettigan's contractor, Michael Hamilton of Punta Gorda, is holding off on closing it and finishing the repairs because he believes the wall was built out of compliance with building plans on file with the county.
Manatee County's Dupre said an independent engineer has signed off on the wall's structural strength. Hamilton, he said, has a permit for the work waiting at the building department.
But McGettigan said he is still leery of the wall's construction. He and Hamilton said long metal bolts that run from the bottom of the wall to the attic are undersized and may fail in the event of a hurricane. They are also concerned that mold could still form inside the common wall.
McGettigan said he is tired of the constant work and of living in hotels. He scarcely remembers what it is like to live in the home he has owned for eight years.
"This has been a terrible nightmare," he said.
Settlement of little comfort
Roxanne Miller, another Willowbrook resident and a member of the community's homeowner association, said she, too, has ongoing issues with her townhome. She said water still leaks into her garage.
The state's settlement with KB is of little comfort to her. She said she does not believe it will protect her in the long term, largely because she and other homeowners must sign a waiver and release of claims to qualify for assistance stipulated in the settlement.
Some Willowbrook owners have sold their homes since the faulty construction came to light. Homes in the subdivision seem to have regained much of their original value. Current listings in the community range as high as $196,000.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.