Lennar Acknowledges Chinese Drywall Problems, Promises to Replace Material in Some Florida Homes

A dozen homes in South Florida are slated to have defective Chinese drywall replaced.  Lennar Homes, the nation’s second largest builder by volume, has apparently acknowledged the problem, and is promising to absorb all costs related to the drywall replacement, including relocation expenses for people living in the houses.

Over the past several months, owners of newer homes in South Florida have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. The Florida Health Department said it has received at least 30 reports of smells and other problems connected with the Chinese drywall issues.  About 2 percent of those involved health complaints.

Usually, drywall is manufactured in the United States, but a shortage between 2004 and 2006 prompted many builders to buy drywall from China.  Most of the reported problems stem from drywall imported from China during Florida’s construction boom years of 2004-2005.  One official with a large building supply company recently told a Florida newspaper that more than 10-million square feet of the Chinese drywall was imported to southwest Florida during that time.

In addition to the putrid smell, many South Florida homeowners have reported problems with air conditioning and other systems that are likely related to the defective Chinese drywall.  Reports indicate that the drywall emits a sulfur compound that corrodes wiring, air conditioning coils and other metals.   Many Florida homeowners have spent hundreds – even thousands of dollars – to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired.

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd. of China, a  subsidiary of German-based manufacturer Knauf, is the company at the center of Florida’s drywall problems. Knauf has issued a statement insisting that the sulfur-like smell coming out of its drywall poses no dangers.  The company maintains  that the damage done to air conditioning and electrical wiring is the result of drywall made by some other company – though it has been unable to name which one.

According to report on news-press.com, people living in a dozen Lennar homes are being relocated so the builder can replace drywall.  A statement from Lennar also said it  intends to replace damaged fixtures in the homes, which could include plumbing, electrical wiring and air conditioning systems.

The builder has also identified 80 of its homes in Southwest Florida that appear to contain the suspect drywall and is investigating 40 more, news-press.com said.  About 30 of the 80 Lennar homes confirmed to have the drywall are in Lennar’s Heritage Harbor development in east Manatee County, the report said. Lennar has  hired a Tampa environmental firm to conduct testing on the homes.

A statement from Lennar also maintained that the Chinese drywall was installed by independent contractors, and claimed that it did not know the material was imported from China.  The builder said it intends to “to take all necessary actions” to hold manufacturers or suppliers of the defective drywall responsible.

Of course, Lennar is not the only builder in South Florida that may have used  defective Chinese drywall.  According to newspress.com, at least one other builder, Aubuchon Homes, had moved a family out of their Fort Meyers home in December because of drywall problems.

Florida homeowners dealing with the defective Chinese drywall will face severe economic consequences that go far beyond the cost of air conditioning repairs.  The real estate collapse has already hit the state hard, with home values dropping significantly.  The values of homes built with toxic drywall will likely drop even more, and could be extremely difficult to sell.  At least one law firm with an office in Florida, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, has indicated it intends to file a class action lawsuit seeking economic damages from builders, suppliers and others responsible for the drywall disaster.

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