Janet Ahmad, President
HomeOwners for Better Building
has been a while since I last reported. The reason is that the
momentum is picking up across the country and time has not
permitted. The hard
work of many dedicated people is finally paying off with
recognition by federal agencies, elected officials and the news
Congressmen Charles Gonzalez and Ciro
Rodriguez File H.R.5033
American Homebuyers Protection Act”
far the biggest event was the filing of H.R. 5033 by Texas
Congressmen Gonzalez and Rodriguez.
The text reads: “In
General - No person engaged in the construction of new houses may
require a purchaser to enter into a mandatory arbitration
agreement as a condition precedent to entering into a contract for
the purchase of a new house.”
bill is designed to protect home buyers from the abuses of
Mandatory Binding Arbitration Clauses by builders who will not
sell a home unless the buyer agrees to give up their
Constitutional Right to sue the builder in a court of law.
Any agreement to arbitrate must contain the following
statement: “By Agreeing
to Binding Arbitration You Are Giving Up Your Right To Go To
Consumer Fairness Act,” H.R. 2258,
which was filed in 1999 by Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez from
Illinois, will also "prohibit pre-dispute, mandatory
arbitration" on all
these bills have a long way to go before becoming law.
Please write your Congressmen and Senators asking their
support of H.R. 5033,
" American Homebuyers Protection Act” and H.R. 2258, “The Consumer Fairness Act.”
Special Thanks to the Congressmen!
“DEED IN LIEU OF FORECLOSURE”
and VA have a program entitled “DEED IN LIEU OF FORECLOSURE.”
program may be an
alternative for disillusioned homeowners who can not sell
their homes because of the high cost of maintenance associated
with defective products, such as siding, cracked foundations and
structural defects, etc.
Department of HUD
to Foreclosure of an FHA Insured Mortgage”
(DIL) of FORECLOSURE - FHA, through
the lender, pays an incentive to borrowers to encourage borrowers
facing inevitable foreclosure to transfer the deed to their
property to the lender or FHA in lieu of foreclosure. Like the
pre-foreclosure sales process, a DIL also enables the borrower to
avoid adverse consequences associated with foreclosure.
Utilizing alternatives to foreclosure is a positive
action which benefits lenders, homeowners, and FHA.
YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MORE INFORMATION ON ANY OF THE ABOVE
OPTIONS, CONTACT YOUR LENDER, OR ANY HOUSING COUNSELING AGENCY.”
to Foreclosure on VA Guaranteed Home Loans”
of properties securing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
guaranteed loans, who have difficulty maintaining monthly payments
on their loans, need to be aware of various alternatives to
permitting the loan to be foreclosed. In most cases, these
alternatives have significant advantages for the homeowner and
for the Government. Following is a discussion of these
LIEU OF FORECLOSURE”
a private sale is not feasible (or a buyer cannot be found in a
reasonable period of time) and a foreclosure is otherwise
inevitable, a "deed in
lieu of foreclosure" (voluntary conveyance from the
borrower to VA) is another acceptable alternative to foreclosure
which may be used. In addition to the information needed for the
approval of a compromise sale, a title report indicating that
title to the property is free of any other liens and an appraisal
performed by a VA-approved appraiser are required for a deed in
lieu of foreclosure. Upon receipt of all required information, VA
will notify the holder whether the deed is acceptable.”
“Today's Disposable House is Tomorrow's
US SENATE PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON
HOLDS HEARINGS ON JUNE 29, 2000
States General Accounting Office (GAO) Testimony:
Oversight of FHA Lenders Could Reduce HUD’s Insurance Risk”
summary, our work reveals a number of weaknesses in the lender
approval, monitoring, and enforcement efforts performed by HUD’s
headquarters and its four homeownership centers.
…. although HUD has taken enforcement actions against
lenders with excessively
high default rates, it needs to take further steps to hold
lenders accountable for poor performance and program
with direct endorsement authority underwrite virtually all
FHA-insured mortgages for single-family homes. Direct Endorsement Approval Process
Provides Limited Assurance That Lenders are Qualified. “To
strengthen HUD’s enforcement efforts against lenders, our report
recommends that HUD clarify and implement guidelines for
identifying lenders whose direct endorsement authority should be
is an area that needs close monitoring by HomeOwners for Better Building (HOBB). There are indications that many homeowners have allowed their
homes to go into foreclosure when faced with the costly repair of
defects in their homes.
GEORGIA HOSTS REGIONAL MEETING
invitation was extended by our Georgia Chapter to hold a regional
meeting. On August 21
and 22, the meeting was hosted by the beautiful City of Savannah.
was evident by the many new members that joined in our efforts.
But of course, it is most unfortunate that our success must
be measured by the heartbreaking stories that are abundant
throughout Georgia and adjoining states. Our meeting and home
building problems were the led stories on the 11 p.m. news.
those attending were: Flo
Roberts/Osteen, President and Brenda Tomlinson, Vice President of
our Georgia Chapter, Linda Armstrong, President and Diane Wolinski,
Vice President of our Florida Chapter and Gloria Adams, President
of our South Carolina Chapter.
was a press conference and book signing by Billy Doniel, the
author of "A Promise Kept."
those of you who are not familiar with Mr. Doniel's book, it
exposes the tragic death of Teresa Yarbrough who was killed in a
fire caused by faulty wiring that was over looked by careless
building inspectors. Mr.
Doniel's book is a must for all to read and can be found on Amazon.com.
in all, I highly recommend and encourage regional meetings to
stimulate local chapter's organizational efforts and gain
recognition by local officials and news media.
Texas in the News
Kaufman & Broad is Featured in the
& Broad has given HomeOwners
for Better Building (HOBB) in Texas a reason to grow and
achieve several victories. We
have been successful in getting homes repaired when homeowners had
all but given up. Kaufman
& Broad actually bought a number of homes back.
Antonio EXPRESS NEWS reported:>>
"Builder looks at home buyouts"
(See articles on HOBB
"Cisneros coming back to S.A."
"Cisneros’ future is interesting as his past"
"Our one-of-a-kind prodigal son returns"
Kaufman & Broad Home Buyouts!
Kaufman & Broad was busy trying to negotiate buyouts in the
Northampton Subdivision, Kaufman and Broad announced that the
former Secretary of HUD, Henry Cisneros has formed a
joint venture with Kaufman & Broad and has returned to
San Antonio. Cisneros
is the Chairman of American City Vista, which is an affordable
housing venture with Kaufman & Broad Homes.
Cisneros was also given a seat on the Board of Kaufman
Henry Cisneros Meets with HomeOwners for Better Building
and Disgruntled Northampton Homeowners
after Cisneros’ return to San Antonio, we were encouraged when
he asked to meet with HomeOwners
for Better Building (HOBB) to discuss the problems with the
Northampton Subdivision. During
the visit and tour of the Northampton and Ventura Subdivisions, on
September 9, Cisneros expressed a genuine concern and sympathy for
homeowners and a desire to help.
Our expectations were high, that finally a
positive dialog would be established with Kaufman & Broad.
a subsequent meeting with Buddy Goodwin, the head of Kaufman &
Broad of Texas, produced nothing of substance.
are still waiting for something positive from the former Secretary
of HUD, but instead all we see are his commercials about the
large, low-income housing projects that he and Kaufman & Broad
for Better Building (HOBB) has
been active with a number Kaufman and Broad subdivisions, but of
course the most publicized is the Northampton Subdivision. All
indications are that Northampton was built within 3,000 feet of
three landfills, has been built on expansive soil, has inadequate
surface drainage, and springs.
The soil has been identified in several reports as Houston
Black Clay. The City
of San Antonio, Public Works Department, conducted a Phase One
Environmental Site Assessment of the Northampton Subdivision,
dated July, 2000 and reported the following:
“…several potential environmental concerns were
noted on the subject site through the historical review of aerial
photographs and USGS maps, and visual site inspection of the
adjoining parcels. Additionally,
several new residential structures were observed with significant
exterior and interior cracks.
Groundwater seepage was also identified in the yards of
some of the residences.”
“…evidence of filling activities was observed on the
southwest portion of subject site.”
“Houston Black Clay is identified throughout the subject
is commonly known to be highly expansive, unstable, and generally
unsuitable for foundations and road pavements. Fluctuating
groundwater conditions could decrease soil stability….
Please note that the Houston black clay identified in this
area can also cause structural cracks, foundation failures, and groundwater seepage
as observed in this assessment.”
“A Phase II subsurface investigation should be performed
to determine the presence of, and the composition, of the suspect
study should also include a geotechnical investigation and
evaluation of foundation design for the geotechnical constraints.”
for Better Building Commissions Engineering Study
Al Hays, Environmental Engineer, Confirms Landfill Sites
new study conducted by Dr. Al Hays, of Kingsbury, Texas, an
Environmental Engineer of Hays Environmental Engineering Inc., has
been completed. Using latitudes and longitudes provided by state
records, Dr. Hays has confirmed the location of the previously
documented municipal dumps. Further,
State aerial maps show extensive land disturbances that supports
that one of the locations is in what is now the Ventura
Subdivision which is directly adjacent to the Northampton
Hays concludes: “This proximity could create the possibility of
an endangerment to either human health or the environment through
the agency of groundwater contamination from garbage contained in
the municipal landfill sites. Since natural springs have existed in this general area prior
to any development, the possibility of contamination is made all
the more crucial, especially since some homeowners have come into
contact with surfacing groundwater in the streets and inside their
light has been shed on the landfills and tributaries that were
covered over by the developer, and is believed to be the source of
the groundwater seepage. The
grandson of the previous owner of the land, who grew up on the
Northampton property, witnessed garbage dumping as well as the
origins of water. “The
original water well, on the highest point of the property, was
only 30 feet deep and never went dry,” according to the
Kaufman & Broad - BROKEN PROMISE!
Committee Members Resign In Protest
appease enraged homeowners, Kaufman & Broad promised to
conduct a Phase II Study and
formed the “Northampton Environmental Committee.” Several key
committee members resigned in protest after they learned the
engineering firm was not conducting a Phase II Study.
Of course, ultimately Kaufman & Broad announced that
they had found nothing.
NO PHASE II STUDY WAS PERFORMED!
HOMES IN CREEKSIDE SUBDIVISION IN FLOOD
Owner Snake Bitten!
HOME OWNER OF CREEKSIDE
SUBDIVISION REPORTS: It
appears nearly 200 homeowners of the Creekside Subdivision,
located in San Antonio, are in the flood plain because Kaufman
& Broad failed to complete a required drainage project.
Records indicate Kaufman & Broad did not disclose the
problem to the buyers when they sold them the homes. When the Home
Owners Association found out about the problem around April, 1999,
they chose to utilize the associations’ funds to pay Mark Brown
Engineering $25,000 to try and solve the problem.
Mark Brown Engineering is the same firm hired by Kaufman
& Broad who performed the original engineering for the
subdivision. When one board member was asked why Kaufman &
Broad did not pay the engineer, their response was, “Kaufman
& Broad refused.”
FOX TV REPORTED HOME OWNER
BITTEN BY SNAKE! Kaufman
& Broad agrees to buyback a home in just 3 days! While
demonstrating defects in his siding, to a Kaufman & Broad
employee, a homeowner was bitten by what is believed to be a
was nesting with its family behind the siding. The home owner was treated at the VA Hospital. The buyback
negotiation was handled personally by Buddy Goodwin, head of
Kaufman & Broad of Texas.
DANGEROUS WATER HEATER VICTORY!
FIRES PROVE: ELECTRICITY AND
WATER DON’T MIX: San
Antonio Building Official, Gene Carmargo, claimed he had “Discretion and Immunity” to interpret/deviate from
the National Electrical
Code adopted by the City, HUD, VA & FHA.
Building Officials have allowed stacked units, where water heaters are installed in the return air plenum, directly
beneath the heating/air
conditioning systems. The opinion of Texas Department of
Licensing and Regulation is that this does not comply with the
National Electrical Code. The National Electrical Code states: “The
intent of Section 300-22 is to limit the use of materials that
would contribute smoke and products of combustion during a fire in
an area that handles environmental air…”
The City Council of San Antonio directed the staff to study this
issue and report back with safer alternative installation methods.
(See San Antonio Express News reports on HOBB
Kentucky in the News
from Charles & Ainslie Vice, Chapter Presidents
for Better Building,
Chapter President, Ainslie Vice, supported Builder/Contractor
Registration in Lexington/Fayette County, by serving as a member
of the subcommittee who drafted the Ordinance, that becomes
effective January 1, 2001. This
is the first Builder/Contractor Ordinance in the Commonwealth.
Ainslie has also been
Review Board, which was created as a part of the Ordinance. This
Board’s purpose is to hear disputes between homeowners and
builders/contractors that are not resolved by other methods.
THE MANFRED AND CHERIE ECKER
Ecker a blacksmith, who lived in Chicago with his wife, Cherie,
decided to retire to Lexington, Kentucky and raise miniature
carefully checking on their builder to construct a retirement
home, their move to Kentucky proved to be a disaster, which wiped
out their entire life savings/retirement of $400,000.
First, they were forced, for three months, to live in their
van used for horse shoeing. Then
finally to a makeshift room, which they have been confined to since
July of 1997, with
no heat or air conditioning or running water and only a make shift
bathroom. When one
looks up, they see the underside of the corrugated roof where
daylight penetrates as does the rain, and the SNOW in the winter.
roof rafters that support the corrugated roof are 10 FEET on
center and the studs are 5 FEET apart, with only the makeshift
room having sheetrock. One
wall collapsed completely after a short time and the lumber used
to frame the house was the same used to form the foundation. On
two occasions Mr. Ecker told their horribly compelling story to
Lexington’s Urban County Government Council. When finished, the Mayor said, "Thank you Mr. Ecker. Next speaker.”
WHY DID CITY & COUNTY
OFFICIALS FAIL THE ECKER’S ?
COMMENTS by Janet Ahmad: Seeing
is believing and shocking is just one word to describe their
living conditions. I have shown the astonishing Ecker video to
people across the country and the most common question asked is:
“How could the City of Lexington allow this to happen?”
has become of elected leaders and society when they turn their
backs on their neighbors? Not
too many years ago the people of Kentucky and their forefathers
helped neighbors build and rebuild their barns and houses when
they had a disaster. In fact, houses and barns were built to a
higher standard and completed.
Florida in the News
from Linda Armstrong, Chapter President
CONVICTED FELON, DIRECTOR OF
THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY LICENSING BOARD, FIRED:
was discovered that the Director
of the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) was a
convicted felon. The head of a Jacksonville-based State
Construction Board has been fired in an ongoing change of
administrators at Florida's Department of Business and
Professional Regulation. Rodney
Hurst, a former
Jacksonville city councilman, who went to prison in the
1980's, had been executive director of the CILB since 1996.
STORAGE FACILITY COLLAPSES -
NO BUILDING PERMIT: In
Jacksonville, the collapse of a 98% complete, 14-story coal
storage facility, under construction for the Jacksonville Electric
Authority, injured 11 workers. The structure had no building
permit. See story on our website.
Mold & Formaldehyde Fumes Alert in
Pulte Homes Featured in TV News Story
Tragic New out of Ft. Meyers:
did a feature series about Bill Hoesch and his Pulte home.
Due to moisture intrusion,
Mr. Hoesch slipped on a wet floor and had surgery to
in his neck. He is
only 31 years old and now disabled with a wife and a five-year-old
daughter. The Health
Department condemned his home and sealed it as a biohazard.
The hidden mold was so severe the family had to move out
and leave behind their personal possessions and furniture.
numerous homes in
problems, which is developing into a class-action suit. The
"Ft. Meyers News Press" has also done features on this
of the hidden problems, besides mold, with the moisture intrusion,
is that the adhesives in OSB (particle board) used in almost all
homes in this moist humid climate, contains formaldehyde. The fumes of formaldehyde are getting into the homes of countless
unknowing homeowners. Watch
for future developments regarding this issue.
Ryland Homes in the News
David Pearl addressed the State Building Code Administrators and
Inspectors Board. Mr.
Pearl was featured in a series of articles by the "St.
Petersburg Times," November 16, 1999 and March 14, 2000,
which are on our website. The
State sent 2 independent structural engineers to examine his
Ryland home almost three years ago.
determined that the gable design was flawed and could not
withstand winds of over 57 mph. Despite
this flaw, Ryland, or the State, have not notified homeowners of
this problem and have continued to construct the same model home. Mr. Pearl, a senior citizen, and his lovely wife, drove three
hours to Tallahassee, the State Capitol, for a meeting with DBPR
officials, only to be told they had no meeting and were escorted
out of the building by capitol police.
Is this politics? Watch
for future developments regarding this issue.
HomeOwners for Better
Building FLORIDA CHAPTER PRESIDENT
SPEAKS TO AMERICAN SOCIETY OF
HOME INSPECTORS: Recently,
Florida HOBB Chapter
President, Linda Armstrong, spoke at a breakfast meeting of the
Northeast Florida Chapter of the American
Society of Home Inspectors. They will provide us with
information and we will file appropriate complaints. The ASHI
inspectors need to remain unnamed to protect their livelihood.
This gives HomeOwners for Better Building (HOBB) the potential to establish
patterns of problems with particular areas or builders.
DIANE WOLINSKI NAMED TO STATE
BOARD AND HEAD OF “JAG” CLEARING HOUSE:
Florida is very pleased to announce the addition of Diane Wolinski
to our State Board. Ms. Wolinski is a chemist with 20 years of
experience and her knowledge of toxic matters is invaluable. She
is very active in the community and currently in the process of
obtaining her law degree. HOBB
will soon have a new link. HOBB
Florida Board Member, Diane Wolinski, is leading this charge. Jacksonville
Action Group (JAG) has been formed and the website is under
construction. Linda Armstrong will also sit on the JAG
Board, that will be a clearing house for all citizens to gain,
gather and share information. We will address building, zoning and
helping citizens gain access to what should be public records.
People need to be informed and feel they are not alone. We will
gather our troops, mobilize and get action!
CITIZENS FOR TREE
PRESERVATION A LINDSLIDE VICTORY: HOBB
Florida has been very active in the Citizens
for Tree Preservation, and boy did it pay off. The citizens of
Jacksonville passed a Charter Amendment for better tree
preservation 76% to 24%. This is the largest margin of victory
ever in Jacksonville history. This was a true grassroots
democratic petition drive.
Opposed Tree Preservation.
California In The News
from Judy Doyle, Chapter President
Canal II" and Judy’s home featured on HOBB's website)
TOXIC WASTE SITES AND HOME BUILDING
JMC HOMES: HEATHER GLEN
ESTATES - SACREMENTO CALIFORNIA:
of the burial pits and burn pits placed on the property by
McClellan Air Force Base prior to the construction of the loan
collateral, and the fact that there was no Soil Report,
Environmental Impact Report or Negative Declaration, it is
believed that both State and Federal laws were violated. Watch for
future developments regarding this issue.
WINDSOR RIDGE ESTATES,
ROCKLIN CALIFORNIA: This
subdivision was built on top of a landfill and several homeowners
were forced to move from their homes due to TCE wicking into their
homes through the concrete slabs. It is believed that this
subdivision did not meet Federal or State minimum standards.
WOODCREEK OAKS, UNITS, A
county tax assessor has devalued one of the six-year-old homes in
this subdivision from $190,000 to $50,000.
The retired Civil Service Employee (she is noted for saving
President Reagan's life) has been devastated. This subdivision was
approved to receive FHA and VA insured financing.
HAMPTON VILLAGE, ELK GROVE
homes were built under the shadows of three building size propane
tanks. This is a
direct violation of HUD and VA standards for safe, affordable
housing. There is currently a class-action suit filed by some of
the homeowners against the builders, John and Laura Mourier, JMC
Kaufman & Broad in the California
Mather Air Force Base, Rancho Cordova,
& Broad have built 2,171 homes on known contaminated land and
the water servicing this subdivision is known to contain high
levels of TCE. The homes were financed through FHA/HUD, VA and
Cal-Vet insured loans. Because
of the toxic waste, we believe selling the homes through those
programs is a violation of HUD,
24 CFR 200.926d.
City Unified School District turned down purchasing the 70 acre
track of land southwest of the former Mather Air Force Base
because of possible environmental contaminants at the site and
concerns about expansion of Mather Airport.
Do you have a bad-builder story? Please