Construction disputes can get heated
Eleven months later, on March 28, 2005, the Oswalds learned that their house leaks. Two inches of rain fell that day. Some of it made its way into the Oswalds' basement. When he finished his graveyard shift as a Butler County sheriff's deputy, Brian Oswald returned to a house taking on water...The builder, Meyer Builders of Harrison, recommended sealing the brick, but an image of a Band-Aid flashed in Brian Oswald's head... "It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life," Kleinberg said of hiring Taylor Homes. "Taylor is one of the worst companies I have ever dealt with. They should be put out of business."
Construction disputes can get heated
BY JAMES MCNAIR
LIBERTY TWP. - It was the house Brian and Angela Oswald had planned to live in the rest of their lives.
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A couple in their 30s with two young boys, the Oswalds ordered the house custom-built in a new subdivision called Creekside Meadows off Princeton-Glendale Road. For $365,000, they moved into the two-story brick house with five bedrooms and 3,100 square feet.
Eleven months later, on March 28, 2005, the Oswalds learned that their house leaks. Two inches of rain fell that day. Some of it made its way into the Oswalds' basement. When he finished his graveyard shift as a Butler County sheriff's deputy, Brian Oswald returned to a house taking on water.
Brian and Angela Oswald sit outside home with their sons Hunter, 5, and Chase, 2, and Angela's mom, Connie Smith. The couple are suing their builder because of water leaks in the basement.
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"I saw water streaming from the top of the concrete wall in several locations in the basement," Oswald said. "I would say somewhere between a quarter to three-eighths of an inch of water was standing on the floor."
The builder, Meyer Builders of Harrison, recommended sealing the brick, but an image of a Band-Aid flashed in Brian Oswald's head. He hired an independent engineer who found defects that allowed water to enter the house. The engineer's proposed fix? Replace the brick. The cost? $124,000. The Oswalds and Meyer are fighting the dispute in court.
Five years of robust home construction in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky has put about 45,000 households into new homes, and workmanship disputes serve as a thorny test of builder-customer relationships.
Unlike with automobiles, there are no lemon laws requiring builders to take back defective houses, and new home warranties typically last a year. Only when homebuyers file a claim do they learn whether their builder will stand behind its product - or won't.
"If you go to McDonald's and buy a bad $3 burger, they replace it," says Kurt Lowe, who lives with his girlfriend, Sarah Wendel, in her 22-month-old house in Union. "You buy a $189,000 house, and you get a bad structure or poor craftsmanship, you get no resolution, just an endless battle."
No house goes up without defects. Walls might need an extra coat of paint. A roof might need caulk or better flashing around a chimney. A subcontractor might use the wrong countertop material in the bathroom. A kitchen cabinet might be cockeyed.
While construction began on about 10,000 houses and condos in the region in 2005, only 156 complaints were filed against homebuilders at the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau last year. Most complaints, industry officials say, are resolved before consumers seek outside intervention.
Once in a while, though, something goes wrong that leads to full-blown battle between buyer and builder. It could be moisture barrier defects, cracking basements, poorly installed roofs or the failure to deliver specified amenities - or perhaps a laundry list of lesser complaints. Some homebuyers believe that once they have closed on a house, paid for a house, their builder is much less attentive to their needs.
For a variety of reasons, disputes arise that lead to drawn-out bickering between buyer and builder. Buyers involved in such stalemates say the experience is frustrating because of the time and effort spent on getting their builder to correct problems. They often immerse themselves in the language of contracts, warranties, building codes and code enforcement. They often end up fixing problems themselves.
Al Kleinberg is one of those people. A retired machinist, he paid $130,500 to Taylor Homes of Louisville to build a 2,100-square-foot house for him and his wife in Dartmouth Woods in Burlington. As problems arose, he said, Taylor told him it would take 45 days for each fix.
Unwilling to wait, Kleinberg absolved Taylor of any further responsibilities and did many of the fixes himself. He installed crown moulding. He caulked windows and doors. He sanded a rough concrete garage floor.
As for other problems - misaligned kitchen cabinets, an undersized master shower stall, the missing flashing tape around his Andersen windows, a basement drain that is half an inch higher than the rest of the floor - he simply copes with them.
"It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life," Kleinberg said of hiring Taylor Homes. "Taylor is one of the worst companies I have ever dealt with. They should be put out of business."
Chris Taylor, president of Taylor Homes, expressed surprise that Kleinberg would complain after having signed off on the completion of the house in 2004.
"I've built over 14,000 houses, and he's one of those customers who requires special attention," Taylor said. "It took a lot more maintenance with Mr. Kleinberg to get his house from start to completion. He didn't have a good understanding of what to expect."
But other Taylor customers voice complaints similar to Kleinberg's.
In April 2005, Carol and Leo Fell closed on the purchase of a $117,000, three-bedroom house from Taylor on her property west of Crittenden. The house was finished, but the Fells couldn't move in until June 2006 because they refused to sign final satisfaction papers until Taylor fixed defects spotted by their independent inspector.