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KB homeowners ask Manatee County Commissioners for help

9:18 PM, Aug 21, 2012   |    comments
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BRADENTON, Florida -- Owning a home is the American dream for many families, but dozens of KB homeowners in California, Texas, and Florida say that dream has turned into a nightmare.

Armando Oyola-Delgado has a plastic curtain covering his bedroom glass doors. The doors lead to what should be a balcony, but instead it's a floorless frame of a balcony. The trim around the doors inside is unfinished, the rug is pulled up, and at the end of Armando and his wife's bed is a stack of pavers.

Armando said the balcony was left unfinished more than a year ago after he learned the contractor hired by KB Home to fix the balcony was not licensed. Armando said, "It's a stress on your family and you every single day."

After exhausting all options, Armando and eight other homeowners take their complaints to Manatee County commissioners during a regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday. "KB needs to do the right thing, buy our houses back, get us out of this danger zone," said Armando.

According to county building officials, the balconies of 21 units are unsafe in the Willowbrook community. One homeowner said her balcony has been replaced up to five times. Commissioners heard about structural issues and water intrusion in the walls, causing toxic mold and, some homeowners say, health issues.

"We had to move the family out. The girls get sick," said Armando.

Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said, "It's more than tragic, it's a failure of the whole system. Contractors are to abide by plans to make homes safe."

Dan Koehler, a KB homeowner, said, "If they do subpar work, why are more homes being built in Manatee County?"

County attorneys advised commissioners they cannot keep KB from building homes if they have no case of violations.

"If they don't construct based on plans they don't pass inspection," said Manatee County Building Director John Barnott. Barnott said these KB homes passed inspection, but mold is not a structural issue under the building code. He said inspectors have not found any internal structural problems in the units.

Some homeowners and commissioners question the county's inspection process. "The county provides inspections. If we did overlook this, we need to address those in our department," said Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen.

Barnott said, "Did we miss something? I don't know. If we did, I want it corrected."

KB representatives have spoken with county officials and say they are prepared to make repairs. KB Home Senior Director of Corporate Communications Cara Kane released this statement:

"KB Home has made a comprehensive proposal to the Willowbrook Association to resolve the homeowners' concerns and complete repairs to the impacted homes.  Again this week, KB Home was actively making repairs to the accessible homes, and we stand ready to continue to address any concerns with the Willowbrook residents."

County officials and some homeowners say there is a lack of communication between the Willowbrook HOA and its homeowners. Building officials say KB Home cannot resolve the problem directly with homeowners because the HOA owns the outside structure and the homeowner is responsible for the inside.

Manatee County commissioners voted to give KB Florida's president a call to appear before the commission. Commissioners also said they are giving this issue top priority, and have asked staff to prepare a report indicating what legal options the county has to help these homeowners and help protect other homeowners. The report should be ready in a week.

Calls to the Willowbrook HOA have not been returned to 10 News. 

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