Saturday, January 21, 2012

Questions from you: To buy or not to buy a home with Chinese Drywall?

I often get email questions using the form below this blog. This week I will post one of your great questions and respond with my own personal opinion:

Question from a Reader:

I am trying to purchase a home in Julia Gardens and I was wondering if you new if this building had chinesedrywall...the address is xxxxx Julia Gardens Dr. The owners said "it wasn't built with Chinese Drywall" but I am reading horror stories regarding Julia Gardens and came across your blog. If you have any info besides the stuff I already read it would be very much appreciated Thank you so much!

My Answer/Opinion:

About half of the Julia Gardens community has it and the other half does not. Standard Pacific, the builder, realized at some point during construction that they'd better stop, but then they continued to sell the properties that already had it.

Here are the main problems with buying a house in this community...

1. You don't really know if you had it unless you have it properly inspected. And even so, it may have had it previously and it was remediated. I can tell you that the remediation offered by Standard Pacific was sub-standard which is why I decided against going with it. They were only going to rip our "some" walls and they were not replacing most of the damaged appliances. It was a half-measure. The problem is not knowing what they really did and what they only claimed they did.

2. Since half of the community has the toxic drywall you can be sure that foreclosures will be plenty of people walking away from their toxic homes. This means that the HOA will not be getting paid from these people and so therefore, all of the HOA fees for the remaining homeowners will be increased. So in effect, you will eventually (if not already) be paying for everyone who had to leave their homes (through no fault of their own).

3. If it were me, I definitely would not buy in any community with chinese drywall. Your property value will never increase much because that community will be forever "tainted" so people (like you) will be hesitant to purchase ANY house in that community... this leads to a very poor investment.

But those are just my two cents and my own personal opinion.

Hope that helps.

Monday, November 30, 2009

URGENT: Drywall manufacturer Knauf deadline this week!


We know for a fact that some (if not all) of the affected units at Julia Gardens by Standard Pacific Homes have drywall marked Knauf Tianjin. The company has placed a deadline of Dec 2nd for anyone with any Knauf drywall present in their home to identify themselves for a potential settlement.

You have to speak to your attorney IMMEDIATELY and also determine proof of Knauf in your house with pictures of the inside of your walls. I cut out a six foot by 4 foot high portion in the family room however another homeowner was able to take a picture from the attic by lifting the insulation and looking inside a wall joint in the master closet.

Talk to your attorney before cutting any walls! Also, the smell and gases seem to get worse after opening up the walls... So please be careful!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Current Status

Hello everyone,

It's been a while since I've posted. It hasn't been an easy couple of months as I'm sure it hasn't for any of you either.

For those of you who have filed lawsuits against Standard Pacific, I congratulate you. However, Standard Pacific is hiding behind some fine print in their joke of a 10-year warranty that we all signed at closing. This allegedly states that we have waived our rights to a trial because we are forced into arbitration.

Arbitration is a non-court proceeding that is entirely private and very commonly won by the builders. It does NOT favor homeowners because builders typically have the arbiters in their pockets since this is what they use ALL of the time to resolve issues.

If you are in this situation, there may be things you can do to avoid expensive arbitration. Please check with your attorney since I am in no position to offer legal advice. However, I have found a couple nuggets of wisdom on the internet that might help you.

First off, if your mortgage loan is FHA-insured or a VA loan, then the builder cannot legally force you into arbitration regardless of what their contract says because the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has built a special protection around FHA and VA loans.

Second, talk to your lawyer about the 6th constitutional amendment. It may protect you by ensuring your right to a trial by jury. I'm not entirely sure about this, but it may be possible. Again, I'm not an attorney.

Lastly, even if you're forced into arbitration, keep it as short as possible. In the State of Florida, arbitration is NOT binding... meaning that if you don't like the results you can still go to court and sue them. However, it does eat up money because it is expensive.

On a separate note, one of the blog readers indicated correctly that the Broward Property Appraiser's Office is reducing the 2009 property taxes for Chinese Drywall homes by 50%. It was previously said to have been 20% but apparently they've changed their minds.

You can visit their website at www.bcpa.net The notice is on their front page. This is what it says currently:

WE'RE REDUCING ASSESSMENTS FOR HOMES WITH CHINESE DRYWALL PROBLEMS.

As has been extensively reported in the news, some homes constructed in Broward within the past few years contain contaminated Chinese drywall. This drywall -- over time -- emits sulfur odors and seemingly causes visible corrosion to copper pipes and air conditioner evaporator coils. However, until a homeowner contacts our office to notify us, we have no way of independently identifying which homes contain contaminated Chinese drywall. These drywall problems seriously impact the value of these homes. To ensure fair assessments for these damaged properties, we will reduce the building value by 50% -- subject to the owners providing us with sufficient documentation of the condition and agreeing to this resolution for the 2009 assessment. To request this reduction, please contact our Residential Department Manager Bob Zbikowski by email or at 954.357.5880 to notify us if your home has documented Chinese drywall issues.



In the meantime, stay strong! We'll make it through this!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Update: From Property Appraiser's Office

I spoke to the Property Appraiser's office to follow up on the form I had submitted online. This is what they told me:

Lori Parrish, our Property Appraiser has decided to give a 20% decrease to the value of all homes with Chinese Drywall for the 2009 tax year. They do not know what they will be able to do for 2010, however.

The correct procedure is to go through the online form as was mentioned below, but you can also call them. I found their organizational chart on their website here: http://www.bcpa.net/Forms/OrgChart.pdf

Lori Parrish's information:
954-357-6904
lori@bcpa.net

The person I spoke to was:
John Chesler
Residential Supervisor
954-357-6884
jchesler@bcpa.net

Please make comments to this post to let us know how your efforts went (anonymously if you wish).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Venetian Village in Ft. Myers, another Standard Pacific community, is confirmed to have Chinese Drywall also.


Just found out through online networking that Venetian Village, another Standard Pacific community, also has Chinese Drywall. This community was finished sometime in 2006.

One of the units in that community is being remediated right now, but contact with StanPac's attorney as of a few weeks ago said that there may be "remediation protocol" issues which would stop them from doing future remediations.

We're working on getting more information. If you know anything please post it here or contact me via the contact form all the way at the bottom of the page. Please remember, you can contact or post anonymously.

Thank you!

Watch the Chinese Drywall meeting in Cape Coral

There's a Chinese Drywall meeting in Cape Coral tonight with various experts. You can watch online at:


Enjoy!

Update: Building #2 in Julia Gardens also has Chinese Drywall


It has just been confirmed that building #2 also has Chinese Drywall in Julia Gardens. Please see the map below and don't hesitate to let me know (even anonymously) if your building has Chinese Drywall as well so that we can update this information for all of our benefit.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Standard Pacific's Q2 Earnings Call - They refused to take our questions!

Standard Pacific's Q2 earnings call was today, Thursday, July 23rd at 1 pm EST. After patiently waiting on the call to ask questions about the Chinese Drywall and how it is affecting Standard Pacific in front of their investors, the folks at Standard Pacific REFUSED to allow the questions to be asked. (More on this later after I get some more information from a source back.)

We wanted to ask some of these questions, to which we STILL do not have adequate or ANY answers actually.

· “What is Standard Pacific doing to remediate the homes it has with Chinese Drywall?”

· “We’ve heard that several of your communities have the toxic drywall, how wide-spread is the problem? How many communities and units are affected?”

· “What have you discovered about it since the last earnings call?”

· “Other builders like Lennar are setting aside millions of dollars to remediate homes with Chinese Drywall, is Standard Pacific doing the same thing? If not, then why not?”

· “When will homeowners be able to receive adequate responses to their issues with Chinese Drywall?”

· “When exactly did Standard Pacific learn about the Chinese Drywall issues in their communities?”

· “Have you placed any claims to your insurance company yet and will they be approving these claims?”

· “How long do you expect for remediation to take?”

· “Why has communication with homeowners been virtually non-existent?”

· “Based on information from your last earnings call, Standard Pacific is looking to exit the Florida market. When is this expected to occur and can we be assured that Standard Pacific will not abandon homeowners with Chinese Drywall?”

· “What can you tell us about the remediation protocols for fixing homes with Chinese Drywall? How extensive are they? Do they include replacing not only the walls, but electrical, plumbing, all appliances, A/C unit and ducts, checking below the foundation to see if the lines coming in are corroded, and possibly even re-nailing all of the framing of the home among other items?”

· “How will you be handling the reimbursement of medical expenses due to health effects suffered by this toxic substance inside these homes?”

If there's one small piece of consolation is that they KNEW we were on there! Even if it takes decades, we will be a constant pain in their backside until they do something! This I vow!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Welcome Cobblestone Homeowners!


It is very exciting to open this blog officially to the homeowners at Cobblestone! We have more power in numbers! Please feel free to read through the articles and the comments from other homeowners in Julia Gardens that are going through the same issues you are.

Also, please feel free to send me an email with your information as well to participate in our attention-grabbing activities planned.

If you start letting us know which buildings in The Carriages and The Courtyards are affected, then we can post the community map just like we did for Julia Gardens. We will continue updating the maps as more people come forward.

Thank you! Let's help each other!

We need to get Standard Pacific's attention!


If you're interested in helping us to get Standard Pacific's attention, please scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and send me a private email.

I'm working on some initiatives right now and need some help in pulling them off!

Let's help each other!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fire Hazard with Chinese Drywall? Got some information from an expert.


I just spoke with a Metallurgical Engineer (Frank Grates from QC Metallurgical, Inc.). He's been dealing with the Chinese Drywall situation for 2 years now and has done many tests on the drywall itself and the components that it emits.

I called him because I was interested in doing a test of the electrical panel in my house. Recent news reports have stated that the corrosion from the Chinese Drywall is a fire hazard so I wanted to investigate this further. Frank wholeheartedly believes that it is very much a fire hazard.

What was most shocking to me is that he's witnessed some homes that the corrosion in the electrical lines even goes down BELOW the foundation - as much as 18 inches below the slab. So any remediation protocol by a builder or construction company, must ensure that there is no corrosion below the slab either, or the problem could persist. I was certainly beyond shocked to hear that they would have to go through the flooring and under the foundation. He also said that sometimes the corrosion goes inside the protective sheething of electrical wires from the ends where the copper is exposed. They'll have to cut out much more copper to get to a "clean" copper line too.

I will let you know what happens in my case. I can send him a sample and he'll have it chemically analyzed with a full report for $75.

How do I get my mortgage company to suspend my payments?


Some of you have asked what the procedure is for mortgage companies to suspend payments. I can only speak to my own experience with Bank of America, but maybe others can reply to this blog and share their own process. So here goes.

I called the Bank of America (at the time it was Countrywide) standard customer service number which I have as 800-669-6607. I had to go through many layers until they connected me to the "Loss Mitigation Team". I recommend you simply ask directly for the "Loss Mitigation Team" and avoid hours of being on hold. :-)

From there, they take your information and you will have to state something like the following: "I've found out that the property under this loan has Chinese Drywall which has rendered my home uninhabitable." At this point, you might find that the person you are speaking to has no idea what Chinese Drywall is, so you'll have to offer a description. I was advised by my attorney not to EVER say the word "toxic" and instead offer something like this: "There are gases emitted from the drywall that are corroding copper and other metals within my home, which are also causing me to suffer adverse health effects. So I have no choice but to move out of my home (or I have moved out already depending on your circumstance). Please be advised that I am doing everything possible to resolve this matter. Given that I cannot live in my home and have been forced to incur other expenses as a result of this situation, I request a forbearance and ask that you refrain from reporting this to the credit bureaus."

They will then put this information in the computer AND you will have to write a "Hardship letter" and fax it to them. Just put the same information as above with your loan number and property address and sign it at the bottom. They may also ask you to detail your monthly expenses, salaries etc. Just so you're clear on everything, I would write all this down before making the call. Their premise is to understand if you can cover your monthly expenses even with having to move somewhere else. Therefore, I highly recommend doing all the math before making the call so you're not trying to do it all in your head while you're on the phone with the person -- not fun!

You will then hear from a "Negotiator" who will call you within a few days to a week or so. This "Negotiator" will likely tell you that the only program they have is for a 3 month "Special Forbearance" and that you will have to pay the lump sum of the payments you missed at the end of the three months. They do try to scare you, but it is the only way so far that Bank of America has decided to deal with this situation. So far, there are no Chinese Drywall special programs available as of yesterday when I called them again.

They will send you a document via FedEx that you have to sign and FedEx it back to them within a certain period of time. It reads very scary, but again, unless you're willing to keep paying them for a home you may or may not be able to live in, then it's the only choice at that moment. Once you send this document, call them the day after and make sure they received it. Mine got magically "lost" in their mailroom despite the fact I had the FedEx confirmation that someone over there signed for it. They retrieved it a few days later and graciously gave me an "extension" on the deadline they imposed for this document to be returned.

Once you have that confirmation, they leave you alone for 3 months. This is at the point where I am now. I have a couple of weeks left on my forbearance. I tried calling yesterday to let them know that the house is still not fixed and the builder hasn't done anything yet. They told me they can't even speak to me until my forbearance is up in a couple of weeks.

I asked what will happen then and the lady told me that they will request the lump sum. I advised that I would not be able to pay that. She said at that point they might try to do a modification to my loan. If that doesn't work either, then they'll send me a letter giving me an additional 30 days before foreclosure proceedings MAY occur. Now, what I've been reading in the news and from the inflection of her voice, they may not start forclosure for months if at all. It seems some banks don't REALLY want to own a bunch of Chinese Drywall houses. I wonder why??? :-)

The whole thing seems like a bad game of chicken and whoever flinches first loses! So, I'll definitely let you know what happens on my end in a few weeks, but at least I hope that this helps some of you out for a little while anyway.

Oh, by the way, the tell you that it will hit your credit report immediately. Now, I did notice that my credit cards reduced their credit limits on me by a lot, but I still have been able to get tons of credit for furniture etc... My attorney advised me to take out as much credit as possible BEFORE it goes any further as a "just in case" precaution.

Good luck everyone and please let us know (even anonymously) how it goes with your bank.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thank you

This blog should be very helpful within this community. This may grow into a very large online community of people who have been victimized by decisions made by builders.

Is my furniture contaminated due to Chinese Drywall? Fact or Fiction?


UPDATE: Click here for the latest Contamination News Article.

This is an area of great discussion. Some people say that there is no possibility of cross-contamination if you move your furniture to a new location, while others say that the possibility is very real.

The idea in contention is that porous surfaces, such as fabrics and woods, absorb the chemical compounds emited by the Chinese Drywall. They also say that these pieces of furniture, like sofas, mattresses and even dining room furniture, will later re-emit or "off-gas" the chemicals it has absorbed and could potentially infect the non-Chinese Drywalls of your new place.

Interestingly, I was reading the Florida Department of Health initial test results of two pieces of drywall. One of them was the Chinese Drywall and the other was not, but apparently, they were transported together in the same bag and when they got to the lab, the non-Chinese piece of drywall had the same problems as the Chinese Drywall one - emitting the same gasses. The report stated that their tests were inconculsive and they admitted there was possibly some cross-contamination of the pieces.

This alone leads me to believe that there may be some truth to the furniture debate. As for me, I did not want to take the risk that my furniture would be contaminating my new living space, so I did not bring it with me.

What do you do with your furniture then? I looked into having it "restored" by one of those companies that does mold and fire restoration. The estimate was for $7,000. I figured I could just buy new furniture for that amount. As for now, we still don't know what to do with the furniture, but we definitely didn't want to bring it with us. We did bring with us anything that is NON-POROUS such as glass or metal and just gave it a really good wipe down with cleaners.

How do I check to know if my house has Chinese Drywall?

The quickest and most effective way to check if your house has Chinese Drywall is to open your A/C closet and look at the "refrigeration line". It should be a normal copper color. If it is black with soot (you can rub it off on your hands), then the line is corroded due to the Chinese Drywall.

This is a free diagnostic that you can do yourself right now! Below are pictures of what a Chinese Drywall refrigeration line looks like and what a normal refrigeration line looks like:


We have also started this map that shows which buildings have been confirmed to have at least one case of Chinese Drywall. As more homeowners report to us (anonymously or not) we will update this map. Please let us know if a particular building that is not listed has been found to have Chinese Drywall - even informally. Thank you!


Monday, July 13, 2009

How to have the County re-appraise your Chinese Drywall property.


Did you know that if you have Chinese Drywall in your home, you can appeal to the Broward Appraiser's Office to reduce your property taxes for this year?

Here's how to apply for a re-appraisal of your property:

1. Get your Property ID#: You can do this by searching for your own property at: http://www.bcpa.net/RecMenu.asp and make note of the Parcel Number ID which is listed on the top right of the page under ID#


2. Fill out the re-appraisal form. You'll need to pay the $15 fee online with a credit card. Visit: http://bcvab.broward.org/axiaweb2009/newwizard/legal.aspx

- Remember to Check "Real Property Value" under the "I wish to appeal" column.

3. VERY IMPORTANT: When I filled it out, there was no comments field, so I put the following statement in the second address line for the property: "My property has Chinese Drywall. Please adjust taxes. Thank you."

I hope this helps. Please post your comments if this worked (or did not work for you). Thanks!


New Times: Developer and Bank Give Couple the Runaround With Chinese Drywall Claim

John and Jacci Knouff first figured out there was something wrong with their house because of the cat box. They kept changing the litter, yet every time they walked in, it smelled like they'd forgotten it for a week. "There were times at the beginning when we just had changed the litter and I'd think, 'God! It smells terrible in here,'" John recalls.

That was in December 2006, when the couple first bought their three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath townhome in the Coconut Creek development of Julia Gardens. After a few months, they realized it wasn't the cats making the place stink. But the cause would escape them for a few months.

Like as many as 30,000 homeowners in Florida, the Knouffs now know that their home was built with defective Chinese drywall. Lawsuits are making their way through the courts against developers and manufacturers.

Meanwhile, homeowners are trying to figure out if the drywall that's eating through copper wires in electronics is also making them sick. But few stories of the people who suffer from this stuff have been told, so the Juice will dedicate space to a few of them over the next few months.

The Knouffs finally figured out they had Chinese drywall earlier this year after hearing news reports about the stuff. John crawled up in the attic and looked down at the walls below. Printed on the back was the word "Tianjin," the city in China that manufactured the bad drywall.

The couple got an attorney, Chinese drywall expert Allison Grant of Boca Raton. Grant first tried to get the developer or the lender to fix the home. But so far, no luck. "I'm trying everything, and they're not listening," Grant said.

Julia Gardens developer Standard Pacific Homes has been unwilling to work with the couple. The Knouffs didn't threaten lawsuits or demand big-money settlements -- they just asked that Standard Pacific move them in to one of the unsold townhomes in the 112-unit development until their place can be fixed. John said that only about a third of the townhomes in Julia Gardens are believed to have Chinese drywall, and the new units were built with good drywall. But Standard Pacific wouldn't budge. "They've basically said tough luck," John said.

I reached Standard Pacific CFO John Stevens at his office in Irvine, California. Stevens said: "We're investigating the problem and looking for solutions, but I can't comment at this time." As for the Knouffs, he said: "They should continue to call."

The Knouffs have also tried to work with their lender, JP Morgan Chase. They hoped the international banking conglomerate could see its way into forgiving their mortgage for a few months while the place gets fixed up. That would allow the Knouffs to afford a rental property.

Nancy Norris, a spokeswoman for JP Morgan Chase, said the bank was "going to reach out to the customer and see" about options. Somebody from Chase did call the Knouffs afterward, but so far, nothing has been done to help them.

As if things weren't already bad for the Knouffs, John lost his job recently. He was the beverage manager for a country club in Boca Raton. They're now living off his wife's salary as a nurse. And the stress? It's constant.

"The stress and tension is incredible every day. I don't want to say I'm sitting by the phone, but I keep wondering if somebody is going to do anything to help us? At the end of the day, I know it's all about money."

New Times: Homeowner With Chinese Drywall Confronts Builder

Homeowner With Chinese Drywall Confronts Builder

Lisset and Ian.JPG
Photo provided
Lisset Sanchez-Schwartz and Ian Schwartz pose outside their newly purchased house in June 2007. They're now on the verge of losing the place.


For many homeowners suffering with Chinese drywall, it's safe to say they wouldn't mind a chance to confront the builders who installed the defective walls in their homes. A woman from Coconut Creek did just that when she hurled tough questions at the CEO of Standard Pacific Homes on a conference call broadcast live to investors.

A bit of background: Lisset Sanchez-Schwartz bought a townhome in Julia Gardens in Coconut Creek from Standard Pacific in June 2007. She figured out in April that Chinese Drywall was responsible for her corroded AC coils and faucets. Sanchez-Schwartz also thinks it might be be to blame for her new asthmatic bronchitis, which sent her to the hospital last year.

After an inspector confirmed that Sanchez-Schwartz had Chinese drywall on April 14, she moved out the next day. She and her husband, Ian Schwartz, now live in a condo they used to rent out. They've contacted Standard Pacific many times about getting their house fixed, but the company has refused to work with them.

So she decided to confront the company's CEO.

Front_of_House.jpg
Photo provided
Sanchez-Schwartz's townhome.
The occasion was a conference call May 8 to discuss Standard Pacific's first-quarter earnings. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of investors and officials with brokerage houses called in to listen to the company's top brass talk about long-term projections and ask questions about profit margins. (Click here to listen to a recording of the call).

Sanchez-Schwartz comes on at a one hour and 20 minutes into the call. She began by asking Standard Pacific CEOKen Campbell his opinion on Chinese drywall and how it will affect the company.

Campbell sounded stunned. "OK? Um. We. Um. We're looking into it." Campbell recovered a bit and claimed the company has taken a first step: identifying homeowners with Chinese drywall. "Uh, we're in the process of doing a review of all of our properties, uh, across the entire United States." Before he concluded, he pointed out that the company has insurance.

Sanchez-Schwartz hit him with a follow-up. "It seems from everything that we're hearing is that a lot of attorneys are getting involved," she said, sounding confident and not showing how nervous she actually was. "How do you expect to mediate homes that are affected?"

The question stunned Campbell again. "Um. Well? Yeah, the lawyers are circling, as you might expect, particularly given the media, um, the help from the media on the topic." Campbell goes back to the spiel about trying to identify affected homeowners and mentions that Standard Pacific also has attorneys who are trying to figure out who's going to pay.

Sanchez-Schwartz then revealed her interest: "I think I should disclose, just out of fairness, that I am a homeowner with the problem and I am trying to remediate directly with you and not involve a lawsuit. I still have not received any information back. I got on this call because I became very concerned about this issue."

This time, Campbell didn't hesitate to cut things off. "We really don't want to tie up hundreds of people's time on this topic." He suggested that Sanchez-Schwartz should call the company's general counsel, John Babel.

"I greatly appreciate that," Sanchez-Schwartz said. "Thank you so much." Then she hung up.

When Sanchez-Schwartz's attorney, Allison Grant, called Babel, Sanchez-Schwartz says she got the same runaround the company has been giving for months.

Now Sanchez-Schwartz is at a breaking point. Her mortgage company, Bank of America, had given her a three-month break from the mortgage while she tried to negotiate with Standard Pacific. That ends August 1, and Sanchez-Schwartz doesn't have a way to pay two mortgages on her salary as a marketing director for a software company. So she's considering walking away from her townhome.

"I have been through the ringer at this point," she says. "I feel like my life has been ruined."

At least she's got one thing: the satisfaction that she confronted the man responsible for her troubles.

Online Support Group for Chinese Drywall

Hello everyone,

The purpose of this site is to form an online support group for homeowners and renters within the Standard Pacific communities that have Chinese Drywall. Specifically, Julia Gardens in Coconut Creek, FL, but really, for anyone that has this problem.

I myself am a homeowner in Julia Gardens that is suffering from Chinese Drywall. I'm hoping that together we can all help each other to move past this issue and get on with our lives. Please post your own story to share. You are welcomed to post anonymously.

I'll also be posting information on other homeowners that have had the same issue and what they've been doing.

Thank you and good luck!