Bradenton, FL - Homeowners in the distressed Willowbrook Townhomes community, built by KB Home, met with new attorneys Wednesday afternoon to explore their legal options. And they came armed with the findings from a 10 News investigation into possible fraud by the home-builder.
With crumbling balconies, severe water intrusion, and out-of-control mold problems, the homeowners thought an arbitration clause they all signed at closing prohibited them from taking legal action against KB Home. While the homebuilder has promised to fix all the problems at Willowbrook, the "fixes" haven't come close to fixing all the problems.
The homeowners say their homes are virtually worthless, and in some cases, unliveable. But when the 10 News Investigators reported former employees had come forward to voice concern about structural defects back in 2007, it opened legal doors to the homeowners.
"(If) there's a substantial material defect that arises," said Stetson Law Professor Darryl Wilson, "they have an action for a 'fraudulent concealment' [lawsuit]."
Wilson says homebuilders have a legal obligation to build reliable homes, but the failure to disclose defects could add on to KB Home's legal headaches.
So far, Willowbrook residents haven't found an attorney to take their case because going up against a huge corporation could prove more expensive than damages will ever be worth; but the possibility of fraud could increase damages and may be their ticket to a class-action suit.
"The fraud thing opened up so many doors for us," said Armando Oyola-Delgado, a Willowbrook homeowner who bought in 2007, but has had to move out of his home because of health issues. "We now have an avenue that doesn't require us to go to arbitration; we have an avenue that's kind of putting their hands in the fire."
KB Home has repeated to 10 News it is committed to repairing homes through the duration of their 10-year limited warranties.
"We have already commenced repairs for a number of homeowners, and are working out details for the repair process with others," a KB Home spokesperson said through e-mail. "We are eager to move forward as quickly as possible."
If you've been a victim of poor KB Home construction, contact the 10 News Investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous KB Home coverage:
9/19/12 - Frustrated homeowners confront KB executive
9/13/12 - 10 News reveals KB whistleblowers tried to warn homeowners
8/8/12 - Willowbrook homeowners meet with state senator
8/4/12 - Homeowners demanding justice from KB Home
Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter.