House to probe drywall fallout

MANATEE — The U.S. House on Thursday voted to study the effects of tainted drywall on housing, and an area construction consultant nodded to the action as a needed first step.

In Washington, D.C., Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, said passage of an amendment to a mortgage reform act would assist owners whose homes have the Chinese drywall that has been associated with odors and corrosive damage.

The legislation would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to study the effects of tainted Chinese drywall on foreclosures and the availability of property insurance for residential structures with the defective building materials.

The vote in the House was 300 to 114.

“Defective Chinese drywall is taking its toll on thousands of homeowners,” said Buchanan on the floor of the House. “Many, including my constituent John Medico of Bradenton, are now finding their homes uninhabitable.”

The Herald’s efforts to locate Medico on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Michael Foreman, a forensic consultant to the construction industry, said his estimate is that 30,000 homes in Florida have the drywall, “and the number would be 100,000 if you include condos.

“If the study helps explain what’s happening with tainted drywall, then yes it’s worthwhile.”

Foreman is working with homeowners and a few builders who are fixing the problem in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“It’s a good first step toward getting people involved in this situation. But more important is what good is the government going to do about it?” said Foreman, of the Sarasota company, Foreman & Associates.

The amendment in the House on Thursday was added to the Mortgage Reform and Predatory Lending Act, HR 1728. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

Buchanan, in his office’s press release, said John Medico complained that smell and contamination forced him to move from his new Greyhawk Landing home in East Manatee and forced him to pay both a mortgage and a rent.

Buchanan noted that many insurance companies are not covering the cost of replacement and relocation and encouraged banks and homebuilders to work with victims of Chinese drywall.

“Without any available assistance, many homeowners are forced to decide whether to live in an impacted home or walk away and accept foreclosure in order to protect the safety of their family,” said Buchanan.

Under the bill, HUD would have 120 days to submit a report that provides Congress with a better understanding of how severely this crisis is impacting the housing market and allow Congress to take necessary action to protect and assist impacted homeowners.

It’s the first piece of federal legislation related to defective Chinese drywall passed by Congress.

Specifically, the investigation is to focus on how many home foreclosures involve houses built or remodeled using Chinese drywall imported from 2004 to 2007. The legislation also calls for federal agencies to determine whether property insurance was available to homes discovered to have such defective drywall present.

Mike Foreman said tainted drywall now has the attention of the U.S. House because insurers’ liability has come into play.

“You’ve got a hot potato here that nobody wants to take responsibility for,” Foreman said.