Officials tour damaged Schertz homes
By David DeKunder
Several residents of a Schertz subdivision whose homes have cracked foundations and various structural problems opened those homes to local officials Saturday.
A group representing homeowners in the Fairhaven subdivision in northern Schertz organized the tour of 17 homes to show the alledged damage to government representatives including Councilman David Scagliola, State Sen. Jeff Wentworth and Guadalupe County Judge Mike Wiggins, County Commissioner Jim Wolverton and Assistant County Attorney Bob Etlinger.
Faye Touve of Fairness for Fairhaven Now said she has a list of 100 homeowners who say they have cracked foundations and other structural problems. The homeowners want the builder, Pulte Homes, to buy back some 45 homes in the area.
The homeowners say they believe shifting soil beneath their homes is causing various structural problems, such as cracks in foundations, slabs, walls, ceilings, floors, driveways and sticking doors and windows.
Scagliola, who visited a half a dozen homes, said he didn't want to assign any blame to anyone, but he hoped that Pulte would do the right thing and address the homeowners' problems.
âIt is up to me to ensure a dialogue is established between the residents and Pulte and to make sure the problems are fixed,â he said.
Wentworth said the tour of homes was âa look-and-listen type of tourâ for him. While the state senator said some homeowners have obvious problems, he explained that he doesn't believe that Pulte is at fault for all of cracks found in the homes that have been caused by natural causes, such as expanding soil and drought.
During the tour, several homeowners found creative ways to point out the structural problems in their homes â such as placing notes near cracks that had been repaired, putting tape on walls and floors to show the length of the cracks and a picture slide show on a flat-screen TV.
Ken Russell used a glass jar to show that his home's foundation is tilting from the front to the back of the house. Russell placed the jar on a tiled floor in his living area and it rolled several feet before it stopped. Russell said his demonstration proved it would be impossible to fix his foundation. âThe house is irreparable,â he said. â(The foundation) is scooting backwards unless you have a huge jaws of life to compress it.â
Resident Debbie Bishop said a crack in her foundation in the back of her home, which can be seen in her backyard, has gotten worse since she moved into the house more than two years ago.
âWhen it started it was a few inches,â she said. âNow it is at least 15 feet.â
Bishop said more cracks are showing up in her home. âI literally find a new crack everday,â she said. âIt literally feels like it is falling apart daily.â
Homeowners Brian and Peggy Benavides said they are still experiencing foundation problems, even after Pulte installed 46 piers sunk to a depth of 48 feet below their home's foundation. The Benavides said they had horizontal cracking that started in the front bathroom and went across the kitchen to the living room.
While Pulte was installing the piers, the couple said they had to live in a local hotel for some two months at a cost of almost $4,000. That cost was later reimbursed by the builder.
The Benavides displayed a slide show of photos â before and after their home's repairs were made â on their flat-screen TV.
âIt's still moving,â Ryan Benavides said. âIt's still separating. (Pulte) can't fix the problem.â
Peggy Benavides said the cost of the repairs Pulte made to her home was well over the $138,000 she and her husband originally paid for the house, adding she is ready for Pulte to buy back her home. âI want to move on with my life,â she said.
Pulte spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga said the homebuilder currently has no plans to offer any buy-back options to those homeowners claiming damage. âWe stand by our commitment to fix and repair these homes,â the spokeswoman said. âAt this point, there is no offer to buy back homes.â
Dolenga said a third-party engineer examined several of the damaged homes and conducted soil samples to see how the structural problems can be fixed. She noted that engineer has come up with a solution which is being reviewed and assessed by another engineering expert. Once a solution has been determined, Dolenga said, Pulte representatives will contact the affected homeowners, possibly by the end of this month.