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Builder buys back 4 leaking homes

Published Sep. 29, 2005

U.S. Home bought the houses in Sarasota. The company faces other complaints in Florida, Colorado and California.

U.S. Home Corp., whose building practices are being looked at by at least one state agency, has bought back four houses here because of excessive leaking.

The Houston-based company, one of the nation's largest home builders, also faces more complaints in Florida, Colorado and California.

U.S. Home didn't install vital parts of houses in Florida and Colorado, according to government officials. And homeowners in California also have complained of homes vulnerable to rain.

In 1998, U.S. Home delivered 8,528 homes, of which 2,462 were in Florida and 1,391 were in Colorado.

Complaints in Florida involve four company developments.

A yearlong dispute at the Turtle Rock community in Sarasota ended with the company buying back four two-story homes within the past month _ $1-million worth of housing _ and making county-supervised repairs to 14 others, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

"We have a warranty on our homes, and we honor it," company spokeswoman Kelly Somoza said Friday. "When you build 63,000 homes, you're going to have some warranty work," she previously told the newspaper.

Stained wallpaper and cracking stucco walls with patches of black mold mark the Brandon home of Sandra Caballero. She began experiencing leaks in 1997, just months after her house was completed in October 1996.

While other problems she and her husband found were fixed under warranty, the leaking continues.

The Florida attorney general's office is in the preliminary stage of an investigation into the company.

Turtle Rock resident Gerry Royle's home revealed housing code violations, including missing hurricane straps and no sill plates between the first and second levels.

Last summer, the company reached an agreement with Sarasota County to investigate other two-story Turtle Rock homes built at that time, and was ordered to reinforce the connection between the first and second levels.