A Caution Regarding Chinese Drywall Remediation

Many homeowners have been approached by builders with offers of Chinese drywall remediation. However, it is important that anyone whose home was built with Chinese drywall realize that premature remediation could cause them further damage.

While it is understandable that Chinese drywall victims want the problem resolved quickly, it is important to note that remediation protocols have not been established, and cross-contamination could occur. Even after Chinese drywall has been torn out and replaced, out-gassing of sulfur compounds and other elements continues to occur. Remediation will only further jeopardize public health when it is done without adequate safeguards or by unqualified individuals.

In September, inspections began on 30 homes with Chinese drywall. The inspections were ordered by U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon, who is overseeing the Chinese Drywall Multidistrict Litigation in New Orleans. Judge Fallon ordered that 15 Florida homes, eight Louisiana homes and a total of seven homes in Virginia, the Carolinas and Mississippi undergo inspection. The inspections are being conducted by Crawford & Company of Atlanta.

Following the first 30 home inspections, a uniform protocol for inspections will be established. Once the protocol is established, inspections on other homes will commence. A proper remediation protocol will not be established until those inspections are complete, and the findings analyzed.

Homeowners considering allowing remediation should also be aware that builders may be insisting they agree to stipulations that are not in their best interest. In most every case of a builder-initiated remediation agreement, homeowners are required to give up almost all of their legal rights. These agreements release the builder from all current and future claims of liability. They also assign all of the homeowner’s rights to sue other responsible parties – such as drywall manufacturers – to the builder.

The agreements do not provide for compensation for many of the homeowner’s losses including damage to personal property, reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, diminution in market value, inability to refinance, detriment to credit resulting from default and/or foreclosure, and loss of enjoyment. And while homeowners are paid a per diem to cover the cost of alternative housing while work is being done, they are not reimbursed for any mortgage payments, utilities, taxes, insurance and/or Home Owners Association fees, or other expenses that accrue during that time.

Builders have also made a lot of empty promises and other oral representations about the scope and nature of the remediation that are simply not reflected in written agreements homeowners have signed. Many homeowners also claim they were told that permitting their builder to remediate a home is the only legal remedy available to them – something that is just not true.

Once remediation is completed under one of these agreements, homeowners may be without recourse should they find that repairs were done in a way that did not conform to the remediation protocol that will eventually be established. For that reason, it is in the best interests of homeowners to delay any Chinese drywall repairs until a remediation protocol has been formulated.

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