The owners of 29 houses in the Las Flores area near Rancho Santa Margarita are suing developer Lennar Corp. for $2.9 million, claiming the residences have defects because of faulty design and construction.
Among the homeowners is Claudia Airola, who says her back yard won't drain, her upstairs sinks take all day to empty, there are large rust stains on an outside wall, and her home's exterior stucco is cracking in some places.
SUING: Claudia Airola and her daughter,
Roxy, 5, and son Nathan, 5, in a bathroom where they contend they
have to deal with slow drains. She has joined a suit against Lennar
Corp. because of the defects she has experienced in her south-county
home. "We are kind of flabbergasted by this because we were not
aware of these issues," said Jeff Roos, a regional president at Lennar.
"I would love for my kids to be able to play on grass out in the back yard," she said. "But most of it is filled with dirt or mud." Other complaints from the residents include windows that allow water to seep inside, cracked concrete slabs, warped garage doors and faulty electrical wiring.
Lennar Corp. declined to discuss the lawsuit because the company has not been served with the document but stated that its customer-care division does not have any unresolved cases open from the Bel Flora development, built in 1998-1999 in the Los Flores neighborhood.
"We are kind of flabbergasted by this because we were not aware of these issues," said Jeff Roos, a regional president at Lennar. "We stand behind all of our homes beyond the one-year warranty period, and we will reach out to these homeowners to address their problems," he said.
Lennar is in the process of building nearly 13,000 homes in Irvine, Tustin and Anaheim.
Last year, the owners of 21 homes in Huntington Beach filed a similar lawsuit against Lennar. The complaints included short garage openings, excessive wallboard cracking and wood trim separations. The case is pending, according to the homeowner's attorney.
Real estate consultant Walter Hahn said that construction defect lawsuits were common during the housing boom of the late 1980s but that the claims tapered off after that.
Gelfer Law Group filed the latest suit Sept. 12 in Orange County Superior County, alleging negligence and breach of contract and warranties. The firm canvassed the neighborhood looking for plaintiffs after it was contacted by at least one homeowner.
Scott Gelfer, attorney for the homeowners, declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying that it was too early in the process and that his team had not yet finished inspecting all of the homes. The Register learned of the suit from www.occourts.org.
The neighborhood is off Oso Parkway, between O'Neill Regional Park and Foothill (241) Toll Road.
Homeowner Danielle Lajoie said she submitted a list of problems to Lennar within a year of buying the home, but the company declined to fix some of the problems, such as phone wires that get mixed up.
Lennar was the general contractor for the neighborhood but used subcontractors to help build the homes.
Airola purchased her home three years ago. After trying unsuccessfully to grow grass for three years, she asked a contractor to check it out. He told Airola that the drains in her yard were placed in the wrong locations and were not deep enough. He estimated the cost to fix the problems and put in grass at $20,000.
A plumber told Airola there was nothing he could do for her slow-draining sinks, blaming the problem on the plumbing's design. The rust stains on her outside wall are from an air conditioner drain that drips fluid directly onto the wall.
Airola also says that one of her bathrooms is "chronically moldy" because there is neither a vent nor a window that opens.
"It's a daily aggravation," she said.
CONTACT US: Reporter Sonya Smith contributed to this report. 949-553-2921 or