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Lennar Homes on Shaky Ground
Friday, 25 July 2008

Shaky ground: Problems continue for homeowners on expansive soil
The dark farmland, which was used to grow corn and cotton for generations, expands and contracts in the presence or absence of water; that much everyone knows. Special care and precautions, like laying a deep, reinforced foundation, must be taken when building a home on expansive soil. If builders don’t adhere to the demands of expansive soil, problems arise. Due to the foundation’s movement, the house’s back door would not close properly, allowing water to enter the house during storms before it was repaired. Chris Barnhill said the issue of expansive soil, while a serious one, has not been the most unsettling part of their transaction with Lennar. He said every aspect of his home’s construction gave him the impression of a job done on the cheap.“If they’d done everything else they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said. Dozens of homeowners in the Huttoparke neighborhood have similar stories to tell. Nails backing out of ceilings, cracks along foundations and doors out of square, or not cut at a precise right angle, are the most common issues.

Shaky ground: Problems continue for homeowners on expansive soil
By Traviss Thomas
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By now, no homeowner in the Huttoparke neighborhood would be surprised to hear that their house was built on expansive soil.

The dark farmland, which was used to grow corn and cotton for generations, expands and contracts in the presence or absence of water; that much everyone knows. Special care and precautions, like laying a deep, reinforced foundation, must be taken when building a home on expansive soil.

If builders don’t adhere to the demands of expansive soil, problems arise.

Katherine and Chris Barnhill bought their house in Huttoparke in 2006. Since then, they have learned more than they ever wanted to know about expansive soil and the risks associated with building on it. They just wish they had been told a little sooner.

In fact, they feel they had the right to be told.

Prior to finalizing the purchase of their home, the Barnhills received a builder’s certification which should have disclosed any issues associated with the construction of the home and the land on which it sits. But on that document, after a question that reads, “Does the site have unstable soils (expansive, collapsible, or erodible)?” the box is clearly marked “No.”

The Barnhills say many of their neighbors received a virtually identical document, indicating that their home was not built on expansive or otherwise unstable soil.

Galen Whisnand, local division president for Lennar, said the boxes on those documents were typically left blank by the Lennar representative who signed off on them in what he called a “clerical error.”

He said the closing coordinator filled in the boxes at a later time, most often with a vertical line through all the “no” boxes.

The Barnhills, who came to Hutto from San Antonio in order to be closer to their chosen church, were pleased to find the opportunity to buy a new home at a price they could afford. The family felt welcomed by the Hutto community.

 
 

The first sign of trouble came when the Barnhills noticed the heads of nails popping out of their ceilings near the walls as they were getting settled into their new home.

Now, the soil has shifted so much that several of the fence posts in the Barnhill’s yard have separated from the ground around them, and the gate is so off-kilter that it cannot properly be closed.

Due to the foundation’s movement, the house’s back door would not close properly, allowing water to enter the house during storms before it was repaired.

Chris Barnhill said the issue of expansive soil, while a serious one, has not been the most unsettling part of their transaction with Lennar. He said every aspect of his home’s construction gave him the impression of a job done on the cheap.

“If they’d done everything else they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.

The Barnhills’ story would say a good deal about homebuilding in Hutto even if it were an isolated incident. But it’s not.

Dozens of homeowners in the Huttoparke neighborhood have similar stories to tell. Nails backing out of ceilings, cracks along foundations and doors out of square, or not cut at a precise right angle, are the most common issues.

After what they have already endured, the Barnhills do not want to go through a lengthy repair process. They said they want Lennar to buy back their home. Moreover, they want to be reimbursed for the additional money they’ve put into their home, as well as some compensation for the stressful ordeal they have suffered since moving into their house.

Other homeowners in Huttoparke are taking varied approaches to resolving the construction issues plaguing homes in their neighborhood. Some homeowners have opted to let Lennar undertake repair efforts — some small and others massive.

Some have retained the services of an attorney to demand satisfaction from Lennar. At this time, those homeowners are not at liberty to discuss their legal proceedings because they remain in the early stages of legal action. The Barnhills do not have a lawyer at this time.

Editor’s note: If you have a personal story about homebuilding problems associated with expansive soil or any other issue, please contact the Hutto News at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or at (512) 759-1420.

http://www.thehuttonews.com/articles/2008/07/23/news/news01.txt

 
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