EIFS house rots,
owners lose everything

Ask the pros- August, 2001
By Reggie Bullard


  My husband & I live in Northern Florida close to the Gulf of Mexico. Destin, Florida to be exact. We just recently went through binding arbitration. Our house was suppose to have stucco, according to plans, however, right before the stucco was to be applied, one of the workers from his office called us and asked us to please change to EIFS. At the time, we knew very little about Stucco or EIFS. We were told that EIFS was a much better product, and that Stucco would crack all the time. We finally, under pressure to change, said "okay." Well, before the house was even complete, the stairway that leads up to the second floor (3 story house) was leaking terribly (there is an inside storage area under the stairs), and we notified the builder of it right away. It was not fixed and we told him of it again. There is wood underneath the stairs. The stairs, we also found out later, were out of code. To make a very long story short, we tried to get the builder to fix the problems with the house many, many times, including the water coming in the house on all three floors (right after we moved in - approx.. 3 years ago now, we noticed the house, as well as the stairs, was leaking as well.) We had another builder/contractor meet with him here at the house (alone) to try to get the situation resolved. However, it was not going to happen if it cost the builder any out-of-pocket.
We were stuck with the contract we signed and that was that any dispute must be resolved with "binding arbitration". We hired an attorney and demanded arbitration as we had no other choice; and it took this long to get there, and we lost everything. Yes, that's right, the builder won and was excused of any warranties etc. Basically, because we failed to fix the house when we
saw it raining in. We should have prevented any further damage, not the builder. Legal people are shocked we lost, and so are lay people. There was even video presented that showed water pouring through a light fixture & ceiling in the house; and numerous other areas. The bottom line is that we still have to fix this house, and looks like we are going to have to pay the builders attorney fees over almost 40,000.00 plus our attorney fees, which are more than that even. We were to have CDX Plywood on the house, and found out after the fact, that the builder changed it to OSB. The city could not inspect the wood to pass it, as it was all covered up at the time they were called out by the engineer on the house (which was also their expert
witness) to inspect and pass. The engineer signed saying it was what it should be (CDX), and the city accepted that (his word).
We do not know whether to appeal this, or what. My husband loses all his liquid money now, and says he cannot afford anymore attorney fees. Our attorney says there was clear bias...who knows *shrug* - but one thing is certain, it is a terrible injustice. Oh, the two attorneys (ours and the builders) made an agreement to use only one arbitrator, not three, as we have found out you are suppose to have. Any legal advice; or perhaps you may know of somewhere else we could turn, would very much be appreciated. And any advice as to whether or not we should try to patch this (?) and not tear it all off (our two experts said it all had to come off and the stairs had to be torn down and rebuilt) would be appreciated as well. I do want to mention before closing, that there is also a major support beam on the side of the house (no windows or anything around it) that is rotted, the wood is; it's like black "hay". It's being supported by poles right now. (This was shown to the arbitrator but he stated he was unclear on where the water was coming from there, and even if clear on it, we failed to fix the house, so therefore no warranty.) What would be the cheapest way for us to fix all of this since we have lost everything? - but at the
same time we do not wish to have a house that will only last a few years. One of our experts reports stated, I believe, it was about 100,000.00 to fix the house (add that to another 100,000.00 in legal fees). We are in a bind, as you can see. Again, any help, advice etc., would be so very much appreciated

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