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Florida settlement: Stucco repair costs to be reimbursed

PulteGroup Inc. is one of the largest home construction companies in the nation. In the eight-year period ending in 2016, Pulte sold more than 23,000 homes here in Florida, including a development just north of Sarasota in Palmetto and others in nearby Parrish, North Port and Lakewood Ranch Waterside.

Pulte recently agreed to pay to cover eligible construction defects as part of a multimillion-dollar settlement reached with Florida's Attorney General. The company was under investigation for failing to disclose stucco-related construction defects that include cracks, delamination (separation of the stucco layers) and improper weep screed installation.

Weep screed is a type of galvanized metal or PVC vent that helps get moisture away from the stucco wall.

A recent news article on the construction defects and settlement stated that "the most egregious example of stucco failures" are in the dozens of condominiums built by one of Pulte's competitors -- KB Home - in East Manatee. Those defects "led to massive water intrusion" that caused balconies and walls to collapse and mold to spread.

Former Attorney General Pam Bondi stated in the complaint against Pulte that the company denied legitimate repair claims for spurious reasons, trying to shift blame to the owners for failures to properly maintain their homes when, in fact, the problems were caused by flawed construction.

The company didn't stop there, sometimes denying repair claims without even performing an adequate inspection of the house.

Current Florida AG Ashley Moody said, "home repairs can be daunting and expensive. Many homeowners in this case paid out-of-pocket for repairs that should have been covered under warranty. Thankfully, we secured a multimillion-dollar settlement to help repay homeowners and repair ongoing issues with faulty construction."

The news article states that some owners complained that Pulte and subsidiaries failed to disclose the problems caused by defective construction.

The settlement requires Pulte to pay $4.7 million in restitution for the out-of-pocket expenses shelled out by current and former homeowners. Owners have until Feb. 15 of next year to submit a claim for restitution. Qualifying claims will be paid at the end of the claim period.

Another portion of the settlement requires Pulte to improve its construction practices, to reduce the risks of future construction defects. Those improvements are to be to materials and construction techniques.

Those construction technique improvements will come from a four-pronged effort: additional training by stucco experts; use of licensed contractors; compliance with Florida building codes; and the use of third-party inspections of Pulte construction.

The case illustrates that strength in numbers of homeowners and condo owners can result in positive outcomes in construction defect disputes.

Homeowner and condo owner associations should discuss their legal options with an attorney experienced in construction law litigation.

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