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ABC Special Report
Investigation: New Home Heartbreak
Trump - NAHB Homebuilders Shoddy Construction and Forced Arbitration
More troubles for Tremont Homes
Thursday, 30 June 2005
Not quite lemonade, but at least some conciliation
“You’re simply not going to see companies like this remain in the Better Business Bureau,” said BBB spokeswoman Kim Lawrence of Tremont Homes, Stature Construction and several other listings involving the same principals...“They’ve got 14 or 16 corporations, but in our eyes they are still one member,” she said.
River Oaks Examiner
Not quite lemonade, but at least some conciliation
STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Some say workers like this one, photographed June 15, have become a common sight in the Hyde Park Crescent community, 1515 Hyde Park Blvd.

Tremont Towers homeowner Heather Michelson walked out of civil court June 15, relieved that an injunction brought against her by her condominium complex would cost her only a promise not to paint lemons in the windows of the $233,000 unit she claims is unlivable.

However, the ongoing ordeal of Michelson and at least one other Montrose area woman has left behind enough of a sour taste at their complexes that the builder is being featured in two national publications’ articles on shoddy construction.

In its May 30 issue, People magazine cites protests against Tremont Homes and Structure Construction in a story concerning contractor problems, and Mother Jones magazine promises more in-depth coverage in an article titled “Home Sour Home” that hits newsstands July 5.

The Better Business Bureau also alerted its members to the firms’ tactics in its July newsletter and pulled the firms’ membership in that organization.

The River Oaks Examiner covered the plight of both women and their neighbors in its Feb. 17 and April 7 and 28 editions.

Michelson, formerly of 3311 Yupon St., earlier had said she would file for personal bankruptcy, because of problems resulting from the purchase of her condominium. Now, she says she has delayed filing, based on the advice of her attorney.

Jordan Fogal, who owned a $360,000 town home in the Hyde Park Crescent community, 1515 Hyde Park Drive, was not as fortunate in her battle with the same builder. She said her home was foreclosed on June 7 and reverted to the mortgage company after failing to draw one bid when offered for sale. She moved out in October, calling the property “unfit for humans to dwell in.”

“You’re simply not going to see companies like this remain in the Better Business Bureau,” said BBB spokeswoman Kim Lawrence of Tremont Homes, Stature Construction and several other listings involving the same principals.

“Tremont and Stature have been under one membership here for many years,” said Lawrence, the alternative dispute resolution coordinator for Fogal’s complaint. “They incorporated many times during that period.

“They’ve got 14 or 16 corporations, but in our eyes they are still one member,” she said. “They are advertised as a BBB member under each name.”

Lawrence said the Tremont/Stature membership was terminated by the BBB board of directors because the company refused to complete mediation or arbitration of a consumer complaint through the BBB as required by the membership charter.

Tremont contracts require disputes to be settled by the American Arbitration Association, which Fogal, 60, contended favored developers and builders and was much more expensive.

Michelson, 26, had faced a claim against her in Harris County Civil Court No. 2 for court and legal costs associated with Tremont Homes’ claims that her lemon artwork interfered with Tremont’s normal course of business. Now she may be looking at a court action of her own.

“I have a pretty compelling case that there was mortgage fraud,” Michelson said of what she claims took place when she bought the home. “I never even submitted an application, but they agreed to a lot of incentives and tripled my income (on forms).”

Michelson, who is unemployed, said she earned about $2,500 a month during the past four years, but that figure jumped to $7,200 a month on Tremont’s paperwork. She said she qualified for a zero percent loan and was approved for a second condominium that she did not purchase at a rate of 10 percent.

Neither Charles Turet, an attorney for Tremont Homes and Stature Construction, nor representatives of Tremont Towers returned calls for comment from the Examiner.

Fogal, a nonfiction writer, and Michelson said they complained about a variety of structural problems on and around their properties soon after moving in. Both also claim tests for mold were positive and led to health problems.

“I had fatigue and nausea from the mold,” Michelson said. “I had bloody noses that my doctor said could have been caused by mold. When I moved, all of that cleared up.”

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