Schertz mayor weighs in on Fairhaven homes issue
I wanted to offer some comments that might help the public clarify their understanding of the challenges our residents and the city of Schertz faces with regard to the some of the homes in the Fairhaven subdivision.
A NE Herald letter-writer recently questioned, Do we (Schertz) have building codes that builders must comply with? Of course we do, and Pulte built the homes in total compliance with our building codes. Every house was issued an "occupancy certificate" attesting to that. Every house was inspected by our building officials as it was constructed to assure that it was built according to our codes.
The homes in Fairhaven have been built, sold and occupied over an extended period of time, some as long as eight or nine years ago and some in the past year. All of the homes built in that area followed the building standards and city codes that were in place at their time of construction; as the codes and standards change, so do the homes. The homes were all eligible for VA, FHA, and other types of financing. At the time, none of the homes had any visible or identifiable underlying problems that would keep mortgage companies from approving their financing after their inspections.
But things began to happen to this subdivision. Foundations began to crack, and walls (interior and exterior) began to shift. Driveways began to separate from the foundations; interior doors began to jam; waterlines in some slabs broke and problems continued to happen first to a few of the homes, and now to a large number.
Why is this happening? This is the issue that is being investigated by Pulte and its engineers. Unstable soil, a dilemma in Texas, is of course the first culprit in the situation. We are in the worst drought in Texas history, even worse than the dreaded drought of the 1950s. Is this part of the problem?
As is typical in small town subdivision construction, the city requires engineered plats of the construction area prior to approval of the plat. Soil samples and testing are required and must be certified by a professional engineer and that engineers stamp must be affixed to the plat. Few cities (small, mid-sized or large) can afford to have an engineering staff to do more than an audit level review of the construction program to assure that it is properly designed.
Instead, we require the developer's engineer to attest to the design of the subdivision and it is this engineer that is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the design. By signing off on that plat, the professional engineer is certifying to his developer, the city, and future homeowners that the design is sound and follows the appropriate principles, standards and rules. If there is an issue with the design, he is liable for any errors he makes.
Is the city culpable as the letter-writer asked? Is the city responsible for helping the homeowners reach a reasonable solution to their problems? We are doing all that we can legally to provide a forum to keep Pulte and the homeowners communicating with each other. Moreover, the law in Texas provides homeowners their own recourse for addressing their concerns on an individual basis.
I know how frustrating these kinds of challenges can be. But the city of Schertz stands behind our homeowners and wants a reasonable solution for their challenges. Pulte and their engineers and lawyers must determine what caused these problems and how to remunerate those hurt by the failure of the homes they built in Fairhaven.
Schertz isn't interested in short-term political statements that don't foster moving forward: we live here together and we are here to stay. Our goal is to work with our residents in Fairhaven to see to it that they get their homes repaired (if practicable) and grow with us and our community for years to come.
Hal Baldwin is mayor of the city of Schertz.
Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/community/northeast/news/article/Schertz-mayor-weighs-in-on-Fairhaven-homes-issue-2881485.php#ixzz1lAkG1G6s
FayeTouve 9:18 PM on February 1, 2012
According to the Schertz City Charter, the city "may pass ordinances and enact such regulations as may be expedient for the maintenance of good government, order and peace of the city and the welfare, health, morals, comfort, safety and convenience of the inhabitants." Some might say the city has a DUTY to support residents, especially in cases where a builder, PULTE by name, takes advantage of buyers using shoddy construction practices and telling homeowners their foundation problems are, in Pulte's words, "within normal limits" and are the "result of normal settling", or even more likely heard from Pulte and their engineers, "the result of too little watering of the foundation, too much watering of the foundation, or the drought". This excuse is only utilized in Texas, the state were homebuilders wrote all the laws concerning home construction.
Other cities in Texas have enacted strict licensing protocols, above and beyond Schertz' "Licensing and Registration Fee", which can be purchased for $150 and provides no recourse for Schertz homeowners in the event of faulty or bad construction practices. Those other cities (such as El Paso) DO REAL LICENSING and require a surety bond of the builder to protect their residents from faulty construction practices. Schertz, on the other hand, seems fearful that Pulte might not want to build in their fair city, so the Schertz City Council stands on the sidelines while residents suffer broken and tilting foundations, tilting walls, uplifts of ceilings, cracked walls and retaining walls which appear far from secure.
What a nightmare - for further info on Pulte faulty construction, visit "poorlybuiltbypulte.com" and "pissedconsumer.com".