EAST MANATEE -- National homebuilder KB Home has reached an agreement on repairs with the Willowbrook Association, which manages all homeowner properties within the 272-unit town home community in East Manatee.
The agreement authorizes a third-party contractor to make repairs to balconies inside Willowbrook, of which 32 have been ruled unsafe by Manatee County building inspectors due to sinking floors and loose guard rails.
The agreement was announced in a statement released Monday to the Herald by KB Home spokeswoman Cara Kane.
"As a national home builder that has been in business for more than 55 years and built more than half a million homes, KB Home stands behind its product and is committed to the repair of the homes in the Willowbrook community," the statement reads. "We are pleased to have a signed agreement in place with the Willowbrook Condo Association, which autho
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rizes a third party contractor to make the necessary repairs at the expense of KB Home. We look forward to proceeding immediately for the benefit of the residents of Willowbrook."
The Association will be selecting their own contractors, architects, and engineers for the repair process, Kane said.
Homeowner and condo associations are privately owned organizations created by real estate developers. Once a certain occupancy is reached, authority is transferred to residents. The Willowbrook Association owns all of the balconies on the property.
Several residents at Willowbrook, however, have requested the multibillion-dollar company buy back their homes. Residents have protested outside a KB Home sales location in Bradenton and pleaded their situation before the Manatee County Commission.
The news of a settlement came as a shock to residents on Monday.
"Disappointment does not start to express my feelings. We have been kept in the dark. This has been all done in secrecy. Why did we have to learn this from the press and not our board?" Armando Oyola-Delgado said.
"The arrogance of the board to accept a deal without first consulting with the homeowners is beyond disrespectful and unacceptable. Who is going to hold these builders accountable for the mess they have left us with? KB homes has bluntly disregarded the FTC consent order they where under and for years let us live with this nightmare. We will continue to bring to light all of KB homes defective products they have left nation wide," Oyola-Delgado said.
Residents have said their homes are damaged due to water intrusion coming in from the balconies, with signs of mold and moisture within the walls, in addition to floor damage.
Oyola-Delgado said more than 80 residents have requested KB Home buy back their units.
Another resident, Sally Urbaniak, called the decision "unfortunate."
"This is in no way over," Urbaniak said.
"Right now, I'm truly shocked and disappointed that a settlement can be made," said Andy Smith, also a Willowbrook homeowner. "Assuming a two-year assessment (of the damages) was used, I'm upset on behalf of the residents of Willowbrook."
Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton, who is also the Republican candidate in the county race for Supervisor of Elections, was notified by the unhappy residents of the agreement.
"I wouldn't sign anything if a third of my homeowners were unhappy with the outcome," said Bennett. "Never have I seen anything like this."
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams