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Lennar fix problems, or get out and don't come back.
Friday, 23 June 2006

Martin officials rap Lennar over homeowner gripes
After weeks of hearing homeowners complain about mold, leaky roofing tiles and shoddy workmanship, Martin County officials have had enough. The county has told a national home builder to prove its homes meet county standards, fix the problems, or get out and don't come back.

Martin officials rap Lennar over homeowner gripes

STUART — After weeks of hearing homeowners complain about mold, leaky roofing tiles and shoddy workmanship, Martin County officials have had enough.

The county has told a national home builder to prove its homes meet county standards, fix the problems, or get out and don't come back.

"These horror stories just keep getting worse," said County Commission Chairman Susan Valliere after residents complained Tuesday of problems with homes built by the Miami-based Lennar Corp. "This is really getting upsetting."

Mike Morgan, a Stuart real estate agent, has been complaining to the commission for weeks about faulty electrical wiring, stucco wall and roof problems caused by shoddy building on Lennar's homes in the Martin's Crossing subdivision on Kanner Highway. On Tuesday, Morgan brought the five homeowners to the commission meeting and said he plans to bring 20 to the next meeting to voice their complaints.

"It's been a nightmare," said Rick Scimeca, who said his house has had problems with leaking roof tiles. Scimeca also said his neighbor had a plumbing leak that caused mildew inside her walls. "It's a brand-new house. These things shouldn't happen."

County Building Official Larry Massing met with Lennar officials on Tuesday about the homeowners allegations. Massing said he is requiring the company to inspect the homes with him present and to send him all its reports on roofing tiles, stucco and electrical wiring used in the homes. The county will require Lennar to do more inspections later.

"If I feel Lennar is not doing everything necessary, you'll be the first to know," Massing told the commissioners.

Mark Sustana, general counsel for Lennar, said the company has agreed to have Massing, an inspector hired by Lennar and a private inspector check the electrical wiring on several randomly selected homes at the same time on Friday.

Sustana said the company has also sent Massing all of its inspection reports of the homes where owners have made complaints.

County Administrator Duncan Ballantyne said he is requesting money in next year's budget to hire more building inspectors so he can form a special unit dedicated to inspecting new roofs.

"This will be an ongoing program until we see the level of demand for roof inspections drop," he said.

But commissioners were so upset by the homeowner complaints that they suggested going further, such as banning Lennar from building new homes in the county.

"If their workmanship is shoddy, maybe we shouldn't allow them to work here," said Commissioner Michael DiTerlizzi.

Commissioner Sarah Heard also suggested shutting down Lennar's Martin County projects.

"I've heard enough," Heard said. "I think we should suspend operations out there and have them solely focus on bringing houses up to code."

Commissioner Lee Weberman said that if it turns out Lennar's workmanship is poor, he would support revoking its license to do business in the county.

Ballantyne cautioned that the county has to stick to its inspection process to make sure any fines or enforcement actions are legal.

Sustana has denied the allegations made by Morgan and the homeowners.

Ballantyne said he would give the commission weekly updates on the progress of the investigations into the homeowners' complaints.

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