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'They didn't care about our concerns': Homeowners describe problems with major builder

Joe Reid says he and his family experienced many problems at their home in Happy Valley after they bought it new from Lennar in 2013. Lennar says Reid's repair issues were resolved. (KATU Photo)

UPDATE: On March 29, 2017, Joe Reid, the homeowner mentioned in this story, emailed KATU saying, "all the issues including repairs to the door knobs and hinges as well as structure issues and standing water in the crawl space have all been fixed."

A document sent by the city of Happy Valley's building division on March 29 says, "To our knowledge there are no outstanding items that need to be corrected."

HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. -- When you buy a new house, you may think you're moving into the home of your dreams, but for some it can turn into a nightmare.

KATU's On Your Side Investigators talked with two homeowners about their complaints regarding Lennar, a company the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland says is the third biggest single family home builder in our area.

Lennar said the repair issues homeowners brought up were resolved. But the homeowners said the process for having them addressed lasted too long and one of them, Joe Reid, said there are still problems with his home.

A spokesman for the city of Happy Valley also admitted that inspectors initially failed to notice oversights by Lennar in the construction of Reid's house.

"We were just like flabbergasted with how we were treated overall," Reid told KATU regarding his experience with Lennar. "They didn't care about our concerns. They weren't interested."

Reid said in 2013 he and his family bought a new home on Southeast Lincoln Heights Circle from Lennar for $355,000.

After a lengthy process he said Lennar addressed several complaints but there are still issues with the house.

Reid started out showing a KATU crew his driveway.

"I'm looking at all these cracks. See these -- they're called spider cracks," Reid explained. "All these little cracks here that just will get worse and worse and worse."

Reid said after they moved in, the driveway flooded when it rained with water sometimes flowing into the garage and under the home.

"It was like a little babbling brook right through our crawl space," Reid said. "So they came in and fixed -- put in a drain here and a drain here and that at least got the ponding out of this little mixture."

Inside, Reid showed KATU multiple door handles he said Lennar never fixed.

"It's just stiff," Reid said regarding one door handle. "It sticks sometimes so the kids get locked in the bathroom and we have to sit here and fiddle with it and junk."

Elsewhere Reid showed KATU door hinges that are worn down.

"See the hinge here -- see that?" Reid said. "Every one of those screws is just stripped out."

Down in the crawl space, Reid said he discovered major problems after they moved in.

"See these big, heavy joists (beams)? They were just two-by-fours that were nailed together. That was their original floor joisting, so they brought these big joists in," Reid said, touching support beams beneath the home. "The insulation was not here. So that was my first thing when I got into this crawl space, I'm like, 'How come there's no insulation between the crawl space and the floor?' So we called them up and they did come out, then inspected it, and they had the city inspectors come out and then the city inspector's like, 'Oh, yeah, that's our bad. They said they put it in and we just signed off on it and we didn't really know.'"

"The flooring in this particular house was somewhat unique and the missing joist and insulation was something we missed during the inspection process," Steve Campbell, spokesman for the city of Happy Valley said in an email to KATU. "However, immediately after our inspector noticed the issue, our building division contacted the contractor on behalf of the homeowner, who came and fixed the issues within weeks."

"They should've been able to figure this stuff out even in the building process," Reid said regarding Lennar.

He claims the problems started before they moved in.

"They had promised us a finish date of July 15th," Reid said. "So we had moved from Utah, sold the house, packed up everything, came here on July 11th."

Reid said it took about seven more weeks for the house to be finished and during that time he, his wife and kids lived in a hotel near Portland International Airport.

Lennar gave them $2,500 for their troubles, Reid said, along with a restaurant gift card and lots of excuses.

"You're not appreciated as a customer. They just take advantage of you and they just run out the string and then dump you," Reid said. "I see more Lennar projects going up throughout Happy Valley. I just feel like I'm gonna give a heads up."

Reid never filed a complaint about Lennar with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

But two other people in the Portland metro area did, including one of Reid's neighbors, Mark Villanueva.

"It seemed like they were trying to not do anything and get out of whatever they had to," Villanueva told KATU.

He claims Lennar did shoddy repair work that left his driveway and yard damaged before he bought his home about two years ago.

"There was a big kind of indentation in the lawn," Villanueva said, "and we noticed parts of the driveway were cracking.”

He said he initially contacted Lennar about the issue in November of 2015 and the company wouldn't take responsibility for it until after he complained on the company's Facebook page in January.

"I feel like they probably should've done something before Facebook," Villanueva said.

He claims it took a total of nearly nine months for the problem to be completely fixed. Even now, he said his paved driveway is not perfect.

"The two squares (on the driveway) that don't match the other four are the sections that they re-poured," Villanueva explained while standing in front of his home in Happy Valley. "Before they did it, they said, 'Yeah, it's not gonna match.' But I'd rather have a driveway that's not falling apart."

Until this past week, Lennar's local branch, Lennar Northwest, Inc., had an F rating from the BBB based on Villanueva's complaint and one other.

But after KATU contacted the company they got the Better Business Bureau to change that grade to NR (not rated) pending further review because they said the BBB failed to tell them about the complaints.

David Quinlan, vice president of marketing for the Better Business Bureau Northwest, said in a statement, "We routinely update business records as new information becomes available. During the update process a company rating will show as NR until completed, at which time the rating is recalculated. We’re working with Lennar to insure the accuracy of their business record."

A Lennar spokesman said the company has resolved all repair issues involving Reid and Villanueva.

He sent KATU the following statement:

"At Lennar, we proudly stand behind the homes we build. We take seriously any concerns expressed by our homeowners. We have tens of thousands of satisfied Lennar homeowners across the nation. We have specific guidelines for dealing with customer issues. We work with homeowners and our trade partners to inspect a problem, recommend a solution and make repairs. It is important to understand that homebuilding is not assembly-line work. Mistakes happen. Lennar is committed to ensuring that any faulty workmanship by our company or our trade partners is corrected under warranty.

One example of this commitment is our response several years ago to the industry-wide problem of defective drywall made in China. We know of no other builder that addressed the issue as promptly and comprehensively as Lennar. We remediated about 1,000 homes with Chinese drywall at a cost of about $80 million. In each case, we relocated the homeowners, photographed their homes, moved and stored their possessions, stripped the interiors of the homes to the studs and rebuilt the entire interior with new wiring and plumbing connections. We then returned all of our homeowners’ possessions to their original locations based on the photographs. We took those actions without knowing whether we would recover the expenses from the drywall suppliers."

This story is part of a nationwide ABC News investigation, New Home Heartbreak.




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