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Expose finds new homes rotting from water intrusion

An expose by the Philadelphia Enquirer in November uncovered thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of homes across Pennsylvania and the U.S. that were built with substandard materials and have been exposed to water damage that costs homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.

The expose, called “Rotting from Within,” describes multiple contractors who used shoddy materials and lax construction techniques to build new homes and remodel older homes from the start of the 2000s housing boom to today. The result is water damage that is often unseen until an inspector finds the damage when the homeowner tries to sell the house.

Pennsylvania is the epicenter

While the expose focuses on more than 600 homes in Pennsylvania, researchers say the problem could be nationwide.

In the southwestern area of the state, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, the have been built since 2000 could be affected.

The state Attorney General says that 200 complaints about water intrusion have been filed with the office in the past five years. Some builders have gone out of business while others have admitted in filings they have set aside millions of dollars to pay for warranty claims.

The scope of the problem remains shrouded because many homeowners sign away their right to sue when they buy the house and enter into mandatory arbitration, which isn’t public record, or they sign confidentiality agreements if they sue and settle with the builders.

The scope of the problem

The problem involves new and remodeled homes, starter and multi-million-dollar homes, suburban homes and inner-city townhomes, 20-year-old homes and new homes. The homes were built by multi-million-dollar companies and small, local companies. While the expose focused on stucco exteriors, homes faced with brick, vinyl, stone, fiber cement board and other materials are also involved.

The result is rotting wooden walls that causes health problems and compromises the structural integrity of the building.

The fix is to strip off the siding and replace the wooden structure and siding at a cost of $50,000 to well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, ruining any equity the homeowner has built.

Because of the unseen nature of the problem, most homeowners don’t discover it until after the builder’s warranty expires.

While some builders settle, others fight the homeowners and appeal verdicts through the judicial system, costing the homeowners tens of thousands more in legal fees while they wait years during the appeals process.

Your home is both your safe haven and your biggest investment. If you feel it is threatened, you may want to contact a qualified legal firm to seek help.

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