Will KB Home victimize the victims? (again)
Over the course of the the last 2 days , 3 different and credible sources have indicated that KB Home will attempt to file lawsuits against some of the homeowners / construction critics of Willowbrook. The reports of the allegedly impeding lawsuit came in only a few hours after lawsuits from residents began to be filed against KB Home within Manatee County and only a few months after KB Home attempted to place the blame on their trade partners for the shoddy construction.
One has to wonder how KB Home can think they can get away with bullying the homeowners within Willowbrook when they have 3 documented whistleblower cases and they are under the scrutiny of state investigators. One has to really ask a few questions:
- Where were KB Homes onsite supervisors and who called out for the inspections?
- Is this a ploy to damage and discredit the reputation of the victims?
- How does KB Homes blame their trade partners in all these locations?
Let’s review the history and ethics of one of Americas most admired and respected homebuilders.
Exhibit A – Home on a bombing range
Exhibit B - Factsheet
Exhibit C – Little bit of history
Texas case holds lessons for Orlando residents who find their homes were built on an old military bombing range
Thea King-Lewis found out that her dream home was built atop a former military bombing range after children and a dog dug up live ordnance in a yard down the street.
The discovery touched off evacuations, a real-estate panic and plummeting home values. Teams of Army Corps of Engineers combed backyards with high-tech gadgets on the hunt for more bombs.
Then came lawsuits and finger-pointing.
The litany of events sounds familiar, but this wasn’t in Orlando, where bombs were found in the past year in neighborhoods built on and near the Pinecastle practice range.
Instead, this was in Arlington, Texas, years ago. Residents there ended up in a long battle with builders, trying to get their property cleaned up, to get the builder to buy back their homes, or to collect damages.
“People here have gone through seven years of hell,” King-Lewis said. “It’s been aggravating and it can emotionally drain you.”
King-Lewis was among about 150 families in the 127-acre Arlington neighborhood of Southridge Hills who sued the Los Angeles-based home builder KB Home in 2001 after they learned that their homes had been built atop a former Navy bombing range.
She offered some insight for Orlando residents who are going through a similar situation.
“I heard all that about Orlando on the news and all I could say was, ‘Here we go again,’ ” she said.
The best advice she has is patience. Justice wasn’t swift.
Like the residents in Texas, people in the Orlando neighborhoods of Vista Lakes, Tivoli Woods and Crowntree Lakes found out their homes and a school were sitting on a powder keg. More than 400 Orlando families have entered into a class-action suit and other litigation, claiming fraud and seeking financial damages.
King-Lewis is bound by the terms of her settlement not to speak about specifics of her case. But her history there is well documented.
She joined protesters who would stand on street corners or under KB Home billboards, holding cardboard signs.
In turn, she and others were countersued by KB Home for defamation in a suit that asked for $20 million in damages to be paid to the builder by the protesters. KB Home later dropped the suit.
She also was among three women accused of planting an old piece of munitions on KB property, in the neighborhood where the Army Corps of Engineers found hundreds of similar objects. Those accusations were also later dropped.
And in a sworn affidavit, King-Lewis asserted that an attorney for KB Home offered to drop the lawsuits and buy back her property if King-Lewis were to lie about Janet Ahmad, the leader of thewatchdog group HomeOwners for Better Building, which championed the cause of the Arlington homeowners.
King-Lewis didn’t want to wade through those legal fights again, saying that it’s behind her now.
Ahmad, of San Antonio, said she thought KB Home wanted to bribe King-Lewis to get to her.
“It was an out-and-out bribery attempt and she wouldn’t go for it,” Ahmad said.
Marcel Weiner of the Dallas law firm Weiner, Glass & Reed, LL, which represented about half of the Arlington litigants, said that all but one of the cases have been settled.
Closing arguments were in January 2007 before an arbitrator, now-retired Texas Judge Joe Clayton. He ruled in April and found that KB Home failed to make complete and truthful disclosures to the home buyers, and therefore violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
Weiner said that the judge also found that “the failure of KB Home was done willfully and intentionally.”
He isn’t allowed to speak of any particular case because of the settlement agreements. But he said homeowners wanted the company to buy back their homes. Others wanted to collect financial damages for the diminished value of their homes, which originally sold for about $135,000.
A number of the original homeowners faced foreclosure because they had trouble selling the properties.
Some Orlando bomb-area homeowners face the same situation.
The Arlington site was about 127 acres and it took the Army Corps four years and $2.6 million in tax dollars to clean up the property.
No one can say how long the Orlando cases might take to wind through court or how long the Army Corps might take to clean up the property.
The former Pinecastle Jeep Range in Orlando is 12,483 acres, and an Orlando Sentinel investigation showed that fill dirt was taken from the former range and used to build some of the neighborhoods nearby.
It has yet to be determined exactly how many homes and acres could be affected.
King-Lewis said that the Orlando homeowners should look at cases similar to their own, and educate themselves about the law and their rights.
“They can learn from other people’s mistakes and cases already fought,” she said.
And she offered some hope.
“People should hang in there,” King-Lewis said. “The value of their properties will eventually go back up.”