Some residents in the Willowbrook neighborhood say they’re tired of living with collapsing balconies, rotting floors and mold so they’re launching an organized protest.
“I’ve been screaming for help for six years,” said Armando Oyola-Delgado. “We’re desperate.”
At least 60 homeowners in the subdivision north of Lakewood Ranch have complained of major structural and water damage in their condos, caused mostly by leaks around their second and third floor balconies.
Homeowners say recent storms caused balconies to fall and some complain the mold has made them sick.
Manatee County building inspectors have evaluated 21 homes in the past week and deemed 15 of them unsafe. Yellow warning signs are now taped to the outside of the front doors.
“I’ve never run into this,” said John Betcher, a supervisor for the county.
Betcher said so many homeowners want their houses checked that it will take weeks to review them all. “We don’t know what the cause is, or how this developed.”
Dozens of people gathered for a protest this past weekend. They marched at their local post office and mailed 2,000 letters to KB’s president and the Oval Office.
Oyola-Delgado said he’s lived with leaks and mold since shortly after buying his new condo six years ago. KB, he said, started major renovations, such as removing his rotting balcony, more than a year ago. But Oyola-Delgado says work was never finished.
Workers stacked pavers from the balcony in his bedroom and left, he said.
“I don’t even care for them to come back and fix it,” he said. “They can fix it when they own it, they can do whatever they want with it, they can burn it down to the ground if they want to, I don’t care. Just get me out of it, because I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
KB sent this statement to The Tampa Tribune:
“KB Home remains committed to customer satisfaction and we stand behind our product. We were actively making the necessary repairs and then received a claim from the (homeowner’s) association, which caused some delays on our part as we evaluated the claim. Today, KB Home continues to work closely with the association and building department to reach a resolution and begin the repair process within the next few days.”
Residents are furious with that statement. They say they’ve heard promises to fix problems before but only minor repairs are done. When it rains, they say, the problems return.
They want KB to buy their homes back.
The company said Thursday it’s not willing to do that and will continue evaluating the damage so it can make repairs.
News of the neighborhood’s plight caught the attention of local political leaders.
State Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican, met with residents and advised them to hire their own engineer to conduct an independent inspection, “paid for by the association, not KB Home.”
Roxanne Miller said her condo is in such bad shape she moved out in April 2010 on the advice of her doctor.
“I nearly died,” Miller said. “I have black mold that sent me to the hospital with respiratory problems multiple times. I can’t live there, and KB refuses to fix it.”
Nick Sommer said his condo has water intrusion around the balcony and it has now traveled to nearby walls. His bedroom wall, where his newborn baby sleeps, is wet to the touch.
Sommer’s handheld moisture reader shows “0″ in some places along the wall but the closer it gets to the balcony, the higher the readings, all the way to “100.”
“If this was a car, this would go under the lemon law,” Sommer said. “I can’t believe there’s no lemon law for houses to protect consumers.”