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Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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2007 lawsuit says builder knew of Willowbrook home defects

After numerous repairs, Kelly Haye still has to put towels around her window to soak up rainwater and keep her baby from touching moldy drywall. "I have a dismantled balcony with water intrusion and I have a gushing window full of water when it rains," she said. She is one of about 60 homeowners in the Willowbrook neighborhood near Lakewood Ranch who complain of leaks, mold and collapsing balconies, and they blame builder KB Home. KB insists it will fix the problems, but residents say they've received only patchwork repairs and don't trust the builder.
"I say no," Haye said. "You need to buy back my home, and I'm done with this." A lawsuit filed in 2007 suggests there may be a reason for homeowners' skepticism. The federal whistleblower lawsuit alleges KB executives knew about, but concealed, "life-threatening structural defects." The suit, filed by a former human resources director, says he was fired when he refused to play along. The whistleblower, Ruben O'Neil, said an engineering report showed KB used "substandard/inadequate materials in the construction of the rear-load-bearing wall of 50 to 60 townhomes." O'Neil said sales agents were told to "proceed with closing on homes anyway." The suit was settled quickly. "We corrected each unit, under the supervision of an engineer, and we notified the homeowner, and that was it," KB Regional President George Glance told News Channel 8. But the letter sent to homeowners is dated August 2007, months after the whistleblower says the defects were discovered. Asked if he could see how some homeowners might read the allegations in the lawsuit and think they were duped when they bought their homes, Glance responded, "What we're focused on his taking care of our customers and standing behind our warranty. If they are concerned about a particular condition in their home, we're happy to take a look at that."

Reporter Shannon Behnken contributed to this report.

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