Owners say builders targeted vets then left them with shoddy homes

Terrance Callahan bought a new home in the budding Grovetown subdivision of Hidden Creek five years ago but now his walls are covered with plastic sheeting to protect his family and home from the mold invading through his walls.

 

Callahan is not alone. More than a dozen residents from neighboring subdivision the Retreat at Baker Place, along with a number of Hidden Creek residents, are staging protests to bring attention to what they call poor workmanship from builders Wilson Parker and D.R. Horton who they say targeted veterans.

Wilson Parker Homebuilders was based near Phoenix and also operated in Augusta, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C. and Raleigh . The company was bought amidst financial woes in September 2016 by D.R. Horton Homes, based in Fort Worth, Texas with properties across the nation. Some of the homes in the Grovetown neighborhoods were partially built by both companies because of the transition.

On Saturday, Retreat homeowner Robin Holland-Young posted a Facebook live video of several neighbors holding signs that said “They lie, don’t buy,” and were protesting outside the neighborhood.

“I started noticing down my windows and down my walls that I was getting stains,” Callahan said.

He had a restoration company inspect the house and they told him the builders didn’t install flashing on the house. Flashing is thin metal used to direct water flow on a roof, especially along seams, that prevents water from seeping in and causing damage.

Callahan said an entire wall of his home on both floors has mold growing from the inside out. His son’s bedroom was enclosed by the wall when he discovered the mold. Callahan contacted a lawyer for assistance, but the company told him his claim was denied.

He was told there was no way to know how long it took for the mold to grow from inside the wall and through the sheetrock and paint inside. The company said he was too far beyond his warranty to have a claim. He said he was told that his flashing would have been covered if it was damaged, but because it was never installed, it wasn’t under warranty.

Callahan spoke with the Columbia County Code Compliance about the building permits issued for his home’s construction. He said the house failed inspection three times after it was built and those inspections generated several pages of infractions. The fourth inspection was held a few days after the list of non-compliance items was handed to the company, but Wilson Parker still got permit approved.

Retreat resident and disabled veteran Kanesha Roberts had utilities issues, with a one-month electricity bill climbing to nearly $1,000 and unusually excessive water consumption. Roberts said every time a toilet flushes upstairs, the water pipes rattle inside the walls throughout the house.

“I had a knock on my door a couple of weeks ago and it was Columbia County Water Department. The guy told me I used 29,000 gallons of water last month,” she said.

Roberts said she is a teacher and isn’t home during the day. She said she doesn’t know how she and her son could have used that much water, unless there was some kind of problem. She has lived in the community for a few months and her home is still under warranty.

Roberts, Callahan, and neighbor Wilhelmina Clingman said they all had issues with their sprinkler systems leaking, sometimes flooding the yard. Roberts said the cause of her high water meter reading has yet to be determined and no repair work has been done.

Clingman had the builder, which was D.R. Horton at the time, work on her kitchen window in October. She said the project is still unfinished.

“The window was originally so high that you’d have to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to see out of it. So I had them move it down. They started the work in October and it’s still unfinished. They even left some of their stuff behind,” she said.

Clingman said the workers first left the outside of her house unfinished after moving the window down but told her they were done. Later, she said they told her they were leaving for lunch and never came back.

“In July I got a lien on my house because Wilson Parker didn’t pay their bills,” said Holland-Young. Roberts and several others said they received similar letters informing them of liens on their homes as well. In September, D.R. Horton bought out Wilson Parker and the liens were cancelled.

Several members of the group moved into the neighborhood after D.R. Horton took over, but the residents who experienced both companies said nothing changed but the name.

Individually, residents had contacted attorneys who they say told them there was no basis for a case without at least 12 people to establish a class-action suit. Over the last few months, neighbors began talking and coming together, and their numbers are now past a dozen .

The association of neighbors is holding a formal meeting Thursday to pool resources and gather more information. They said they don’t know if any other residents have had the same problems, but they hope this meeting can help them find any others. The group said legal counsel will attend and help them determine the best path forward.

“They had military incentives. They targeted us,” Holland-Young said. “If we come in with a VA loan, they are guaranteed their money, even if someone defaults.

“My opinion is that we are where we are today because Wilson Parker has issues with quality and does not take measures to ensure that the issues are corrected, said fellow resident and veteran Quintin Bell. He said there was no quality assurance on the repairs being done and he said the companies should have had an organized maintenance department. Bell said he thinks the irrigation and sprinkler pipes contributed to the cracked driveways found all over the neighborhood.

Bell said his property has many of the same problems as other residents, including irrigation system leaks and cracked concrete.

A spokeswoman for D.R. Horton said the company is committed to customer satisfaction.

“Please know that we take homeowner concerns very seriously, and we are actively working with these customers,” said Amy Hughes, marketing director for the company. “We encourage our homeowners to contact us directly if they have any concerns with their home.”

Correspondence from several residents, including letters regarding Callahan’s mold and roofing concerns, were dismissed as not covered by warranty. Email communication provided by the residents shows D.R. Horton denied any wrongdoing. Homeowners say their claims are being ignored until their home warranties expire.

“I just want to be happy in my home,” Holland-Young said. “We designed them, we paid for them, and we just want them to be built right.”

Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com

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