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Team 10: New home heartbreak - hidden problems

Posted: 7:11 PM, Nov 16, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-17 03:11:41Z
SAN DIEGO -- Ability, comfort, safety, a home -- that’s what John Gregory wanted to build.
 
"We bought the house unseen like the models weren't even up yet,” Gregory told 10News.
 
Gregory says he was nervous, yet excited, watching the house be built.
 
"It's a large investment. You hope it's the last time you buy a house or move,” he said.
 
But shortly after he moved into his new home in the Eastlake area in 2003, small things started to break.
 
"It's stuff that I just considered wear and tear so I never did anything about it,” he said.
 
Then, more than a decade after he moved in, his daughter's closet door fell off and hit her bed. Thankfully she wasn’t in the room.
 
John says he tried to fix the broken closet doors, only to find out he couldn’t buy replacement parts at any of the big box home improvement stores.
 
"Went to door specialty places and they're like no,” he said. “One guy brought out this big book like a Bible and we found the part and he said 'you shouldn’t be using that, that's not designed for what you're using it for.' ”
 
Now, John says he may have to replace similar closet systems thought his house, and that door was the last straw.
 
After more than a decade in the home, John complained to the builder.
 
"I explained to her the situation, and I don't know if it was the time or the issue but they didn't really humor me on it,” he said.
 
John says the company told him it’s been too long and he’s on his own. Team 10 discovered by law they’re right.
 
In a statement to 10News the builder said:
“The warranty period for Mr. Gregory’s home and its components was for 10 years, and it expired in September 2013. When Mr. Gregory contacted us two and a half years after the warranty expired, D.R. Horton did offer to provide Mr. Gregory contact information for contractors that would be able to assist him, but he declined the offer. California homeowners receive D.R. Horton’s 10-4-1 Limited Warranty, which provides 10 years of warranty coverage for structural components of the home, four years of coverage for systems (plumbing, sewer and electrical) and one year of coverage for fit-and-finish items.”
John Gregory isn’t alone in his complaint.
 
An ABC News investigation uncovered construction issues in some new homes around the country.
 
"It's very upsetting because it’s the most expensive purchase any of us are going to make,” one homeowner told ABC News.

In San Diego County, Team 10 found hundreds of superior court construction defect filings in the past six years alone. That’s for residential and commercial.
 
Team 10 asked construction defect attorney Scott Levine if it’s more common than not in new construction that there will be some sort of defect.
 
“It is more common and the numbers you’re seeing in the court filings are not representative of what's going on,” Levine told 10News.
 
"For every case that's filed in superior court there are probably 10 that are in an arbitration system somewhere," he said.
 
Levine’s been representing homeowners and homeowner associations for more than 20 years. He also helped work on SB800, the construction defect law for California, and authored the book Construction Defects 101.
 
"The reality is if one person has something go wrong in a subdivision everyone has the same problem,” Levine said.
 
In California, if it’s under the warranty period builders have the right to repair any problems that come up. But if they choose not to, it can leave the homeowner with no other option than court or arbitration.
 
Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, says those that go to lawsuit are the vast minority of homes being built.
 
"I think American consumers expect a perfect home," he said. "There's no such thing as a perfect home, and so I think that there are often disputes that arise out of that."
 
In an interview with ABC News, Howard said he expects the home building industry to put up just under 1 million homes this year and said that "the number that are delivered with happy customers, happy outcomes, far exceed the number that end up in the kind of situations [ABC News] is describing."
 
Team 10 called the Building Industry Association of San Diego to ask about construction defect issues locally.
In a voicemail message the CEO of the association says they don’t track complaints, but would be very surprised if they would be experiencing a rash of construction defects because the volume of construction is very low compared to prior markets.