When Alice Reynolds and her husband left New Jersey seven years ago, they chose a Tampa community featuring Victorian-style homes for their retirement. "We saw the homes and fell in love with them," Mrs. Reynolds, 59, said of the two-story wood homes in the Plantation subdivision in west Hillsborough County. "It looked like Disney World."
But Mrs. Reynolds said life in their home has been more travesty than fantasy.
One interior wall is rotting, the kitchen linoleum floors are mildewed and the siding on the front porch is cracked and bending.
Mrs. Reynolds, who blames Pulte Homes Corp. for poor construction of her home, was one of about 40 residents in the Greenbrook, Springwood and Glen Ellen sections of Plantation who demonstrated their frustration Sunday. The sections include 103 houses.
Mrs. Reynolds paced the ground at Linebaugh Avenue and Nixon Road with a group of homeowners and children, many carrying placards that read: "Say no to Pulte," and "30 year mortgage, 5 year home."
She and others in the group said they wanted to warn potential home-buyers about the homes.
Mrs. Reynolds has a 30-year mortgage and, with her husband, a recently deceased power-line repairman, used their life-savings to make a down payment on the $70,000 house.
"$35,000 we put down and look what happened," Mrs. Reynolds said Sunday after showing a reporter water damage to her house.
"My house is dying around me."
About three years ago, 53 homeowners filed a lawsuit against Pulte in Circuit Court. After moving into their houses, the homeowners said the siding was bowed, nails rusted and trim around windows rotted.
They said they repeatedly tried to contact Pulte about the problems and to get repairs. The homeowners, who are still involved in the legal battle, estimate the repairs to each house would cost up to $15,000.
Neither Bob Fleck, president of Pulte Homes, nor Martin Garcia, attorney for Pulte, could be reached for comment Sunday.
At the protest Sunday, many homeowners lamented that they were trapped in the community because no one wants to buy their homes.
"Even if we did try to sell, you can't get your money for it," said Seymour Herre, a former Largo resident who moved to the community in 1984. Herre said the siding on his house is curling out and many nails are rusted.
"You put up money and this is what you get," he said.