PHOENIX -- A lawsuit was filed today in Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona against Del Webb Communities, Inc., on behalf of 375 homeowners who live in the Sun City Grand community in Surprise, AZ, alleging extensive defects in the homes construction. An additional 158 homeowners in the same community have written a formal pre-litigation letter to Del Webb Communities, and 471 other homeowners have filed for binding arbitration, demanding that the builder repair similar construction defects in their homes.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the homeowners by the Phoenix law firm of Kasdan, Simonds, Weber & Vaughan LLP. The lawsuit was filed after the homeowners formal letter demanding that Del Webb Communities repair the defects was not responded to by the company or its legal representatives. Under Arizona law, a builder has 60 days to respond to a formal request to repair construction defects before a homeowner can take further legal action.
This is believed to be the largest construction defects action in the state of Arizona, whether by individual plaintiffs or a class action.
Ken Kasdan, Senior Partner of the Kasdan Simonds firm and an attorney for the homeowners, said a pattern of defects have been found in the homes in the Sun City Grand community investigated by his firm. Substantial defect issues include:
1. Stucco. It appears that about half of the homes in the Sun City Grand community, primarily those built in its earlier years, do not have weep screeds as part of the stucco wall construction. Located at the bottom of exterior walls, the weep screed allows rainwater to drain out of the walls required by the Uniform Building Code for the one-coat stucco assembly. Kasdan noted that weep screeds are found in virtually every stucco home in the Phoenix Valley except for certain projects built by Del Webb Communities.
Omitting the weep screed saves time and money, but violates the building codes, Kasdan noted. The weep screed system allows any water getting into the stucco, either through the stucco itself, cracks in the stucco, or window leaks, to drain out of the walls. Without weep screeds, water collects inside the wall, causing deterioration of the building paper and corrosion of the nails, and allows for mold growth. The omitted weep screed also resulted in the developer bringing the finished soil level too close to the homes sill plates, again resulting in deterioration and mold growth.
2. Acoustical.The Sun City Grand project is located within the 10-mile noise impact zone of the Luke Military Air Force Base, a delineation of which is required by state law. The building codes in the city of Surprise require that all homes built after January 2002, may not exceed a required interior maximum noise level when subject to aircraft over flight.; Interior noise levels of houses at Sun City Grand tested to date exceed this mandated maximum noise level, Kasdan said.
Additionally, the noise ordinance incorporated into building codes for all homes constructed after January 2002, requires that all exterior walls have an overall thermal rating of R-19. The Sun City Grand houses as constructed and designed by Del Webb Communities have a thermal rating for the two-by-four walls of R-16.6, which is less than the R-19 required level.
3. Concrete. An inspection of the homes reveals that many of the foundations systems are experiencing a deterioration of the concrete due to corrosive alkaline salts and desert weathering. This deterioration is evident on the perimeter of the foundation footings.
4. Soils. The soils at the site vary from low to moderate levels of expansiveness. This was apparently known to Del Webb Communities during construction since on some of the homes the builder used a strengthened (i.e. a post-tension foundation) system.
Due to the soil expansiveness, Kasdan said many homes have experienced foundation cracking, slab cracking, tile floor cracking, wall cracks, ceiling cracks and drywall cracks. Many of the cracks have been plastered over but have nonetheless reappeared. The soils at the site are expansive, and have been causing damage such as cracking for many years, Kasdan noted.
Pointing to attempted repairs of defective ceilings in the homes, Kasdan said Del Webb Communities has attempted repairs to numerous homes by installing new ceilings underneath the defective existing ceilings. The homeowners contend that covering up a defect does not make it disappear,& he stated.All of the defects in the original construction causing the cracking and structural damage are still there.
Stephen Weber, attorney in charge of Kasdan Simond's Phoenix office, said the multiple defects rob the homeowners of the pride of ownership and equity value that many of them depend on for their retirement or other uses.
"A home is not only an investment, it's something that a homeowner wants to be proud of," Weber said. "Unfortunately, the defective workmanship and poor construction of these homes have caused, and continue to cause, damage to the homes. We believe that under current circumstances, the homes will continue to suffer from these numerous defects. "