Water damage is eating away at stucco homes and experts blame sub-standard construction. Now, dozens of families have accused Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s biggest home builders, of selling defective homes at “luxury” prices.
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“Home builders have a simple obligation to uphold building codes and industry standards. When that duty is broken, owners have every right to file suit.”
— Perry Liss, Esq.
Homeowners across the state have been shocked to learn that their stucco-clad homes, even new structures, are being eaten by wood rot and mold. Many families now face hundreds of thousands of dollars in remediation bills, expenses that most homeowners’ insurance policies won’t cover. The problem has reached epidemic proportions in Pennsylvania, and it’s already touched many homes built by Toll Brothers, one of the country’s largest “luxury” home developers.
Homeowners are beginning to fight back, accusing Toll Brothers of violating building codes and industry standards in a wave of defective stucco construction lawsuits.
Toll Brothers Faces Lawsuits Over Stucco Damage
By the company’s own account, Toll Brothers is “America’s premier luxury homebuilder.” With 31 communities clustered around Philadelphia in Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Lehigh counties, Toll Brothers may well be southeastern Pennsylvania’s most prolific residential developer.
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Many homeowners, though, aren’t pleased with Toll Brothers’ work. In a recent expose, reporters at Philadelphia’s 6ABC spoke to 22 homeowners who had purchased their homes from Toll Brothers. Each owner related a new horror story, of remediation experts tearing down their stucco to reveal insufficient water barriers, decaying wood beams and harmful black mold.
Inspection experts say the issue comes down to “faulty construction,” as developers and contractors rushed to finish jobs quickly during the building boom of the late 1990s. But it’s not just old houses that are being eaten away by moisture infiltration. The same problems are being seen “on brand new construction,” says Dr. Frank Hendron, a Building Science Consultant who sets installation standards for the State of Pennsylvania.
Toll Brothers: $80 Million In Stucco Repair Liability
Toll Brothers is aware of the problem. In 2015, the company estimated that stucco-related repairs had exposed the company to more than $80 million in liability. But so far, homeowners say Toll Brothers has yet to step up and admit responsibility for the damage.
Instead, the company is “dragging its feet,” according to the families interviewed by Philadelphia’s 6ABC. At least, that was the case until 6ABC went public with its investigation. Shortly after publishing on the story, reports surfaced that Toll Brothers had “settled” the homeowners’ complaints.
No More Stucco In Toll Brothers’ Pennsylvania Homes
The company is also changing its building strategy in southeastern Pennsylvania. In a statement released to the media, Toll Brothers wrote:
“Like many other builders, we have concluded that stucco is a challenging building application for this climate, and, we have discontinued its use in this region.”
Despite the company’s recent change in direction, outraged homeowners continue to step forward. Some developments have begun to begin remediation projects en masse, with each single-family home torn down to the studs. The State’s Attorney General has also stepped in, filing suit against one of Toll Brothers’ main competitors, the David Cutler Group. For it’s own part, Toll Brothers has a lengthy history of disappointing customers and prospective home purchasers.
On ConsumerAffairs.com, the company has just one out of five stars. Out of 75 reviews, Toll Brothers has only received two ratings above two stars. Beyond the quality of its construction, the company has come under heavy criticism over its business practices. In 2011, a class action lawsuit filed in Maryland alleged that Toll Brothers made most of its money by canceling building contracts and keeping deposits, rather than selling people homes. Toll Brothers operates its own mortgage company, TBI Mortgage. Stories of allegedly broken contracts and “inferior workmanship” are rampant.
“Alarming” Rate Of Failure In Stucco Homes
With these serious allegations of sub-standard construction, Toll Brothers finds itself at the heart of what home inspectors call a growing epidemic. Nationwide, stucco-clad homes built over the last thirty years are crumbling from the inside out, leaving homeowners with remediation bills that easily climb into the hundreds of thousands. Southeastern Pennsylvania has been hit particularly hard. In fact, building scientists have begun calling the region “the stucco failure capital of the United States,” the Delaware County Daily Times reports.
The stucco failure rates in southeastern Pennsylvania are “astounding,” says Frank Hendron. More often than not, Hendron has found that area contractors install stucco improperly, up to 80% of the time according to his own estimates. Entire residential developments are crumbling, as faulty stucco is subjected to the extreme weather fluctuations native to the Northeast United States.
Stucco Remediation Lawsuits
The only solution is to strip the plaster completely, taking homes down to the studs and re-applying the siding. Remediation, though, can be extremely costly. For an entire re-do, families can expect to pay over $100,000 on average, with some projects reaching higher. That’s a check most homeowners’ insurance policies and builder warranties are unlikely to pick up, leaving homeowners out-of-pocket.
Some families have been left with only one option: file a lawsuit. Our experienced construction attorneys believe that hundreds of homeowners may be able to pursue compensation in court. If your family’s stucco home shows signs of water damage, or neighbors have begun remediation projects, we urge you to contact our lawyers today. We offer a free consultation to anyone interested in learning more about their legal options. Just call our attorneys or fill out our contact form now.
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