Hundreds of Utah families have filed suit against their residential contractors, Fox13 Salt Lake City reports, accusing two builders of negligent construction. The homeowners, represented by three distinct homeowners associations, say Holmes Homes and Hamlet Homes “cut corners” in building stucco homes and left families saddled with millions of dollars in repairs.

Work Crews Descend On Utah Community

The houses are part of the Daybreak community, a residential development outside Salt Lake City. Reporters say that work-crews are now busy providing the homeowners with temporary fixes. At least 390 townhomes in the Daybreak community have been affected by stucco-related water damage, reports suggest. All of the residences were built within the last decade.

House Under Construction

“The whole house is falling apart,” says Elizabeth Hill, who bought her Daybreak home about ten years ago. Hill’s home is one of more than 100 gathered under the development’s Townhome 1 homeowners association, which comprises homes from Daybreak’s Founders and Eastlake Villages. “I don’t know a lot about construction,” she told reporters, “but I can see when paint is peeling there’s a problem.”

Inspections Find Evidence Of Faulty Construction

Experienced home inspectors have come to a similar conclusion. Contractor Sean Gores, President of Gores Construction, didn’t pull any punches in describing the community’s construction problems: “on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being it’s a pretty bad situation,” Gores told Fox13, “I’d say this is probably a 10.” Based in Portland, Oregon, the experts at Gores Construction made the 800-mile trek to perform repairs in the Daybreak development. The team specializes in evaluating water intrusion and repairing construction defects.

Gores’ inspection of homes found substantial evidence of shoddy construction. As Fox13 reports, “inspectors allege extensive damage, including cracks in stucco due to improper installation of seals against water damage. From rotted trim, to roof and window leaks, consultants say shoddy work has put people at risk in their homes.” An attorney representing the homeowners says that many families are facing between $50,000 and $60,000 in necessary repairs. Financial disclosures from Townhome 1 indicate that the homeowners association has paid out over $113,000 for spot repairs over the last year.

“Cell Phone Contractors”

After relaying his findings to stakeholders, Gores placed blame on the development’s builders, Holmes Homes and Hamlet Homes. “I call them cell phone contractors,” Gores said. “They’re not on the ground watching their subcontractors doing all their work 100% of the time. Otherwise, the quality would be there.” Gores’ work hasn’t just been confined to houses represented by the Townhome 1 homeowners associations. In an interview with the Salt Lake City Tribune, the contractor said he’s been handling similar issues in another Daybreak village, Daybreak Carriages.

A similar inspection report, released in March 2017 by J2 Building Consultants, includes hundreds of photos showing structural issues around windows and doors, along with apparent construction defects in roofs, walls and porches. To explain the widespread water damage, J2’s report points to “defective installation” of sheathing, framing, insulation, drywall and interior floors. Cracking stucco and rotted trim were the inevitable results, J2 says.

Home Builders Blame Lack Of Maintenance

Both of the contractors who have been sued deny these allegations. Holmes Homes, which built over 1,300 houses in the Daybreak community, says the construction “not only complied [with] but exceeded industry construction standards.” In fact, the company says it has proof, in the form of “detailed photos” of the construction process taken by a “third-party inspector.” Holmes is “disappointed that this issue has escalated” to the point of litigation.

Likewise, Hamlet Homes has expressed “surprise” that homeowners are reporting water damage. In a statement released to the media, the company says that it has “not received a single homeowner complaint for related problems in these homes.” Hamlet also notes that, while the report from J2 Building Consultants did not distinguish between the two companies, most of Townhome 1’s structures were built by Holmes Homes. To end its comments, the company shifted blame onto homeowners, writing:

“while very few of the items identified in the report were on Hamlet built Homes, most related to lack of maintenance. It is the responsibility of the homeowner’s association to maintain the exterior of the homes. Early evidence suggests that these homes [sic] exteriors were not properly maintained, leading to other larger issues as the homes [sic] aged.”

Lawyers for the homeowners association say that many of Townhome 1’s residents are retirees on fixed incomes or young families. Few have set aside the extra money it would require to fix the alleged construction defects on their own. While the association currently collects a fee of $50 from owners, that number could rise – by up to $700 – if the repair costs continue to climb. Many families say an increase that dramatic would force them out of their homes.

Daybreak Community

Sprawling over 2,000 acres in South Jordan, Utah, the Daybreak master-planned community lies just 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. Home construction at Daybreak began in 2004 and is expected to end between 2022 and 2024. The development, divided into eight distinct villages, was developed by Kennecott Land, a subsidiary of international mining outfit Rio Tinto.

In early-2016, Kennecott sold the development to Minneapolis-based investment firm Värde Partners. While the sale price remains undisclosed, a report from the Salt Lake City Tribune put the development’s number of completed homes at 500. The community is nestled beneath a Rio Tinto-owned open-pit copper mine.