Tremont Homes Sells Rotten Lemon, Provokes Victimized Homebuyer Into Five-Year Consumer Crusade

UPDATE: Jordan Fogal Responds To Your Comments

“We always wondered what life would be like in our sixties, our credit is ruined; we have stored, sold, and given away years of our memories; and for the last three years we have been holed up in a third story apartment.

My husband Bob and I are senior citizens. Like so many others, we lost our home to foreclosure… not because of sub-prime loans… but because of defective, substandard housing – protected by an arbitration clause. We bought a new house so we wouldn’t have to worry about repairs. The first night my husband decided to try out the Jacuzzi tub on the third floor. When he pulled out the stopper, 100 gallons of water crashed though the ceiling. We had been in our new home all of six hours… all I could do was scream as I watched the ceiling fall on our dining room table, water pouring down the walls, filling up the chandelier, and splashing on the new hardwood floors, then finally flooding the garage below…”

toxicmold.jpg

After that, we found out we were trapped, as our investment attacked itself and us. All the upstairs lights blew; and when we tried to replace the bulbs, they broke off their rusted bases. The windows were installed upside down, and with the first rains came the leaks. The shower wall fell out, and a disgusting smell permeated our home. Mold grew up out the carpet; and black, spider web tentacles crawled up our walls. We pleaded with our builder for 29 months to please fix our house, but they had taken out insurance against any responsibility – they had inserted an arbitration clause in our earnest money contract. They had also knowingly committed fraud by covering up the defects before they sold to us.

crackscracks.jpg

The arbitration clause kept us hostage, since we could not afford over 150,000 dollars to repair our new home. The builders told us that if we continued to complain, their lawyers would take care of us in arbitration. Tremont Homes / Stature Construction, our builder, filed on us with AAA, the American Arbitration Association.

We knew they would not have threatened us with arbitration if it was fair. Come to find out, they had already entered into a contractual agreement with AAA; they were partners. All the burden of proof was on us. We endured 8 months of deadlines and demands while our builder never complied. When we told AAA we couldn’t afford the costs, this demented collection agency emailed us blank forms for our credit card information so they could charge the costs as they accrued.

Our case was dismissed from arbitration because the arbitrator was not paid by us, or the builder. After nearly 8 months of torment, I thought that I could now go to court. We filed a suit, charging the builder with fraud. His attorneys dragged us through 10 hearings before the judge ordered us to return to arbitration and said that we must file a counter claim {which is much more expensive than a regular claim}. The judge said, no matter what his personal feelings, the legislature favored arbitration; and he could not rule from the bench. This time we were ordered to pay. We had to paid $9300.00 to AAA and the arbitrator, and an additional $1687 dollars before the arbitrator would issue her verdict, thirty days later by mail… She did not even have to face us. We were granted the ruling of fraud, because of the builder’s own sworn testimony, used in other cases against their subcontractors, where they used our house as the example of the most defective. All totaled, arbitration cost us in excess of $30,000, not including our legal fees. On October 30, 2006, after four years of anguish, our award was a grand total of $26,088. This did not even reimburse us for the down payment on our home.

Arbitration is like a jail sentence: Your money is taken from you; an agency has complete control over your life. You are bound by legal handcuffs into a secret kangaroo court held behind closed doors, and the rules of law no longer apply. We had 187 documents, a PowerPoint presentation, pictures, witnesses, and expert testimony. The builder walked in laughing, with his attorneys and a little white binder with 37 pages… they didn’t even need that.

Arbitration is a demeaning and abhorrent substitute for justice. We were sworn to tell the truth. We do not understand why lying was overlooked in arbitration, or when civil becomes criminal, and why a ruling of fraud doesn’t nullify a contract?

Everything is upside down in arbitration; the perpetrator files on the victim. Many victims of arbitration come out in shock; many are under gag orders, referred to as secrecy agreements so they cannot tell what has been done to them. They will only repeat a pat statement… we reached an amicable settlement with our builder… How can arbitration be fair – sending an individual up against a multimillion-dollar corporation?

fogalprotest.jpgThough Jodran Fogal is a 61-year-old conservative grandmother from Texas, she refused to cast any ballots for Republicans last election, due to their support of mandatory binding arbitration. That’s how mad she is.

Read a recent Mother Jones article about Jordan Fogal’s story to hear Tremont Homes’ side , such as it is.

Now Jordan is on a quest. She stands outside Tremont Homes building sites with lemons and big signs warning prospective homebuyers. She’s spread her story through the local papers. She pens scathing articles about the evils of mandatory arbitration, and the layers of bureaucracy and indifference that keep them in place. She’s testified before Congress. She still has not received her satisfaction, and will not rest until she does. Because of the terms of her contract, and the absurdly unfair structure of mandatory binding arbitration when applied to consumer disputes, she may not get it until the Federal Arbitration Act is significantly altered to go back to what it was originally meant for, an expedited way for businesses to deal with one another, entities of similar size and complexity. Until then, as long as Tremont keeps making more lemons, that’s more fuel for her slingshot.

dontmesswithtexas.jpgRELATED: Home Sour Home [Mother Jones]
Written Testimony Submitted by Jordan Fogal To The Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law “Mandatory Binding Arbitration Agreements: Are They Fair For Consumers?” Tuesday, June 12, 2007, 10:30 a.m [judiciary.house.gov]
“ARE YOU NEXT? The Many Levels of Texas Bureaucracy” by Jordan Fogal [Homeowners For Better Building]
Podcast Series: Arbitrating Away The American Dream (Vol 1)
Podcast Series: Arbitrating Away The American Dream (Vol. 2) — “The Stupid People”
Why an Ultra-Conservative Texas Grandmother Doesn’t Support the GOP [Alternet]

Pissed? Learn how to support the Arbitration Fairness Act.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. SybilDisobedience says:

    Godspeed, Mrs. Fogal…
    These builders – and so many like them – need to face the music, and that’ll never happen under binding arbitration. The consumer never wins. I was actually sick to my stomach reading that story.

  2. Fl3shy says:

    Wow. Just wow. I really don’t even know what to say to that.

  3. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    I applaud them for not committing a series of homocides.

  4. Buran says:

    Hate to hear about what this unscrupulous company has done. They should have read what they were signing — BUT — the builder has got to accept responsibility for this and pay for a new, properly built home.

  5. hc5duke says:

    @R3PUBLIC0N: No no, that’s too easy. We need Cartman justice. Smear shit all over the exec’s homes and offices.

  6. Skinny Bone Jones says:

    Just echoing sentiments already said…sick, sick, sick.

  7. mikeluisortega says:

    Should have called uncle Tony Soprano to go “talk” to the contractors.

  8. hc5duke says:
  9. Xkeeper says:

    Oh, God.

    @SybilDisobedience: I have to join the club on this one. Just the opening paragraph was bad enough.

  10. Fl3shy says:

    I recommend reading the “home sour home” related article link for more on this story.

  11. Jiminy Christmas says:

    Welcome to the free market paradise of the Republic of Texas. How in the world did this house even pass a plumbing, electrical or building inspection? Or do they have so much freedom in Texas that they don’t observe model building codes?

    Snark aside, maybe the Fogals should have bitten the bullet early on and invested in a good lawyer. ‘Binding arbitration’ or not, I don’t know of any legal document that can indemnify someone for the results of criminal misconduct. And yes, I do think that is what this was.

  12. boandmichele says:

    my god. yeah im sick after reading that too. we are going to be building in a few years. my first and last house i hope. this scares the sh*t out of me.

  13. KwaxieFluxmyer says:

    Wow! It is unbelievable how much power corporations have these days ….

    We lament stuff made in China, but some of our own American products are equally as shoddy and dangerous….

    Thanks for reporting this and a special thanks to Jordan Fogal for being a crusader.

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    Is there any way to get the names and contact information of the company executives for a follow-up article? (I’m serious).

  15. f3rg says:

    Believe me, I’m 100% on the side of these unfortunate home owners, but why didn’t they bother checking all the windows and faucets–and doing an incredibly thorough walk-through and inspection–before buying the house?

    Not to worry, in the end those Tremont people will get what’s coming to them.

  16. SybilDisobedience says:

    This hits pretty close to home for me. I’m a Texas resident, for better or worse (and it just keeps getting worse, if you’re not a white Christian Republican in these parts!). Anyway, we bought our 1st home less than a month ago. We chose a well-established old neighborhood (the house was built in 1958), but we did look at a few new houses. We rejected them purely for aesthetic reasons – too cookie-cutter – but I shudder to think if we’d settled for one, the trouble we might be in now.

  17. hc5duke says:

    @trai_dep: already posted here… Conveniently no phone numbers are given but google returns the following:
    12751 1/2 High Star Dr, Houston – (281) 564-6686
    9602 Mills Rd, Houston – (281) 890-3468
    12941 Rose Landing Dr, Houston – (281) 890-3807
    and plenty more here

  18. crnk says:

    @f3rg:
    my parents refused to sign all of the final paperwork for months and had a 200 item long checklist for them to wade through before she would give her approval. I think they did about 10 items themselves (plastic screw covers on doorway windows, etc) and did sign the final paperwork with a small handful of minor items left.
    The only thing they got stuck with was some minor basement and water issues until we got it landscaped and proper drainage.

    It was semi-successful with friends in a different market–but the whole extensive walk through did get the most important issues fixed for them.

  19. Sudonum says:

    Id you go to the State of Texas web site and do a little searching you’ll find this:

    Tremont Homes Inc.
    Builder #7401
    5225 Katy Freeway Suite 500
    Houston, TX 7700
    713-521-9344
    Registered Agent: Thomas Thibodeaux

    I am a builder and I get really pissed off when I see shit like this. In both Florida and Louisiana where I am licensed they have a new home warranty as enacted by the legislatures. It sets standards and penalties for things like this. It also allows for licenses to be revoked and bond money paid to the homeowners in the event the builder fails to repair problems. However I have been told that in Texas all you have to do is register as a builder, no license required.

  20. JayXJ says:

    @f3rg:

    How many people would pay for a home inspection on a brand new house? If they didn’t hire an inspector how would they know what was wrong? I might catch this, but I’m a pretty good handyman. How would someone that didn’t know what they were looking at realize what had been done?

    This story just disgusts me. I hope there is a nice toasty little corner of hell reserved for the builders that did this.

  21. ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild says:

    Why didnt the Waranty or Insurance cover this stuff. Its why I tell people to get the best HOI they can afford. This builder needs to make everything right, and arbitration is completely unfair to the consumer usually. Im surprised they asked you to pay though, most arbitration clauses Ive seen stip that the builder will pay for the cost (cause its cheaper then lawyers fees).

  22. cwb says:

    I am blown away by the audacity of both the builder and our court systems. After reading your horrendous dealings with the builder, I promise I will NEVER EVER again complain about MERITAGE HOMES here in Texas.

    We have had a year and a half of new home problems, ranging from door being too small to allow dryers into a laundry room and for doors to shut, to range hoods being installed on an opposite wall from the stove! But y’all win!
    Meritage Homes is NOT the devil I once thought they were.

  23. ChiefDanGeorge says:

    Was no home inspection done before buying?

  24. ju-ju-eyeball says:

    If it were me, I would have move out my momentoes and burnt the baby down. Problem solved…

  25. ChrisC1234 says:

    @JayP71: I, for one, DID pay for a home inspection for a brand new house. While they did not find anything major wrong, it was well worth the cost. Even just having a relative with construction knowledge would’ve discovered many of these things.

    I really feel for these people, but this is exactly the reason for home inspections. And being that they were in their sixties, it’s probably not the first house they’ve bought (and would’ve KNOWN about the ability for having home inspections).

    Also… with as screwed up as Louisiana is, there are a few things that our corrupt politicians CAN do for the good of the people. All new houses here come with a 10 year warranty against major defects (and lesser ones for things like appliances and A/C).

  26. gibbersome says:

    What an incredible tale! I hope it has a happy ending for your sake and mine.

  27. bohemian says:

    Remind me to never buy a house in Texas.

  28. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Seems they should be able to sue the government agency who issued the Certificate of Occupancy. An actual inspection (as is supposed to be done before this is issued) would have exposed many of these issues beforehand.

  29. tobi680 says:

    @ ARTDONOVANSDRUNKENLOVECHILD

    You’d be hard pressed to find a homeowner’s policy (open peril or named peril) that doesn’t specifically exclude defects in workmanship.

    It’s sad to say, but they would almost have been better off if they just said they accidentally let the bathtub overfill.

  30. Jean Naimard says:

    This is America. Land of the free. Freedom for the rich because the poor cannot buy their freedom.

    Do not ever count on this ever being reversed, because the anglo-saxons have the concept of “the State is Evil, Bad, Wickedâ„¢” so much ingrained in their culture that they will never allow themselves to vote for powerful governments that will look after their best interests.

    After all, this would be so un-american…

  31. warf0x0r says:

    I just bought a ’07 Honda Civic and while reading the materials that I’d been sent home with I discover that Bridgestone/Firestone’s pamphlet for the tires that I recieved on the car state that by purchasing the car I waive my right to sue them and must go through arbitration if anything happens save for personal injury and property damage… so basically if the tire blows out and the car is totaled… arbitration… *sigh*.

  32. Smashville says:

    It’s possible an inspection was done…lots of times, though, the inspectors work with the builders.

  33. Jesse in Japan says:

    Why did she try taking the matter to a civil court? Binding arbitration can’t possibly be used for a criminal case. Talk to the DA.

  34. zaka says:

    Uhhhhh, you guys bought a house that you couldn’t afford. You signed a contract you didn’t understand. You didn’t supervise the construction and you didn’t do the research and homework you should’ve done. Sounds like you bought something, and gave your trust over to the seller.

    While I am sorry (I really am, this is horrible) and I do despise the people that did this (they should be keel hauled or something), the truth is that you trusted people that you did not know and made rash and poor decisions. Sorry again.

  35. SybilDisobedience says:

    @Smashville:
    That’s exactly what I was about to say. We had a couple of inspectors recommended to us by the seller…but we went with a friend of ours who’s a contractor. He caught a LOT of things (nothing major, but some real nuisances) that we, the untrained eye, would never have spotted – until we had a problem with them a couple of months down the line. Best money we could’ve spent; it more than pays for itself just for the piece of mind it brings.

  36. timmus says:

    I live in Texas, and I have to say that Texans would vote for Kim Jong Il if he was running on the Republican ticket. No wonder we live in a consumer-hostile, corporate-friendly fiefdom. Thanks a lot, you brainless idiots who come out of the woodwork on election night.

    And yeah, if this was me and I was dropping off the Maslow hierarchy, I’d surely go after the Tremont bastards at their own homes.

    Good for Consumerist for covering this. How about a Digg insertion?

  37. Namilia says:

    @JeanNaimard: You say that as if there are no poor Anglo-Saxons. Besides..generalization is never fair to everyone. There’s always an exception.

    And its not so much the State is Evil, Bad and Wicked as the Bush Administration is Wicked. *wonders to this day how on earth he managed to be re-elected with the shit he’s done to our country* :P

  38. Jiminy Christmas says:

    @doctor_cos: That’s not the way it is. For starters, code compliance ultimately lies with the contractors doing the work.

    While it’s the job of inspectors to enforce code compliance within their jurisdiction, they aren’t liable if they don’t find every code violation. This is why we have things like registered engineers and architects, and licensed electricians and plumbers. The inspector gets to start with the presumption that things are done professionally, and find errors from there. If the reverse were true, any yahoo could wire your house and you could count on the inspector to find all of the mistakes.

    Second, and this is a common misconception: The vast majority of the Fogals’ problems as described in the article aren’t even covered by model building codes. Ergo, if it’s not in the code, no inspector has the authority to point it out as a problem…even if it is. Not every imaginable source of leaky roofs and windows and mold-spawning synthetic stucco make it into the code. The code is primarily a minimum safety standard and doesn’t cover issues of durability and workmanship nearly as much.

  39. Namilia says:

    @timmus: It is the same here in North Carolina. Is Texas considered part of the so-called “Bible Belt”? Most of the people are so closed-minded and have no patience to listen to reason. There are some out there that are open minded, but generally they are hard to find especially in rural areas. Anything that contradicts the Bible or Republican beliefs is not tolerated well in most situations (although there is a city near where I live where it is more liberal, but not in the small town where I live which is too small to make it on most maps).

    If more of America would actually vote, perhaps things would change. As long as the power remains in the hands of a few though, we cannot expect things to get better as they will act in their own interest only. The biggest voting demographic today are the baby boomers, and most of them are rich. Unfortunately though, after the Florida recount and similar events it seems a good deal of voters have lost faith in our voting system.

  40. Jiminy Christmas says:

    @zaka: Get over yourself, this is ridiculous:

    You didn’t supervise the construction and you didn’t do the research and homework you should’ve done. Sounds like you bought something, and gave your trust over to the seller.

    Change the terms and tell me if this makes sense:

    You didn’t supervise the surgery and you didn’t determine the proper diagnosis or course of treatment. Sounds like you agreed to a procedure, and gave your trust over to the doctor.

    Why blame these people for not being experienced general contractors? At some point in their life even the biggest genius posting on the internet has to trust in the expertise or skills of someone else.

  41. Namilia says:

    *can’t believe she is posting a third time on the story* I forgot to include my own reaction to this story, heh. I honestly am appalled by this story, I feel so sorry for this couple. I think that the builder should have their license revoked, they should have to give the homeowner a full refund + money for the years of hell and arbitration they put them through, and that they should be forced to live in this condemned home that they built. See how they like it when the shoe is on the other foot and they all start getting sick from the toxic mold. Punishment would certainly fit the crime then.

  42. Vastarien202 says:

    I also feel badly for those people. Nobody should have to go through that kind of nightmare. We in Arizona are having many of the same problems from builders, many of whom are: a) using “Blade and Pour” foundations of flat concrete instead of actually digging a proper one, b) building tons of cookie-cutter stucco monstrosities in and around floodplains, which are a joy when the sand beneath your flat foundation shifts every few months, and c) using lots and lots of undocumented workers so that they won’t have to pay health insurance, social security, or even a decent wage. These builders out here are usually equipped with plenty of clauses which rob their buyers of any rights when the scum starts showing and the walls turn to powder. The good news is that most of these shacks are hideously overpriced, and it does make me smile when another yuppie goes down in a cloud of sheet rock dust and the high-pitched whine of entitlement falls on deaf ears.

  43. Buran says:

    @cwb: Uhm – if you aren’t happy, you have every right to complain.

  44. mconfoy says:

    @JayP71: Anyone with half a brain gets a home inspector no matter what the age of the house is. A well referenced, highly recommended inspector. No they don’t find everything, but in this case they would have found enough to clearly demonstrate this builder was attempting to commit fraud.

  45. slowinthefastlane says:

    First off, they should have hired a inspection company – new construction or not. We got one last year and it only cost like $350 – but they found $5000 worth of problems that we were able to extract from the sellers.

    Second off, since this was new construction, it had to have been granted a certificate of occupancy for the sale to complete. What the hell kind of city/county plumbing inspector would sign off on an unconnected drain? They must have either not had a rough plumbing inspection or had one performed by a crooked and/or incompetent inspector. If they haven’t yet, have all inspection records in the hall of records pulled. They may have a case against the city for signing off on something that clearly was faulty.

  46. jlg71680 says:

    here’s what I wrote to their “customer service department”

    Hopefully you saw article written on your company in the Consumerist. I’m surprised such a despicable company could even have a customer care department. It’s a shame that such a horrible cheating company could exist in this country. Not that it matters to builders such as yourself, but you maybe you should take a look at what good builders can do for people.

    Here is an article about Mo Vaughn, the former baseball player, who does good while still making a profit.

    [www.nytimes.com]

    I hope you guys rot in hell….you’ll get what’s coming.

  47. Sudonum says:

    @ChrisC1234:
    In Louisiana The New Home Warranty Act covers the structure for 5 years and the mechanical systems for 2. Nothing is covered for 10, and sidewalks and driveways are not covered at all.
    [66.0.100.36]
    And that folks is why in states with home warranty laws an inspection is not as sought after on a new home as on an existing home.

  48. acasto says:

    This would be a case were it would probably be acceptable for someone to, perhaps, disappear while taking in groceries, and maybe turn up three days later in a corn field with a sudden change of heart.

  49. formergr says:

    @Sudonum: Yup, when I bought my new construction condo in Chicago, my (crappy as it turns out) attorney said I didn’t an inspection. I have some knowledge of home stuff just from watching my dad rehab some houses, so I caught a bunch of things on the walk-through luckily.

    I only kept it for two years, and upon resale the buyer’s inspector did catch quite a few things that weren’t up to code. So boo on the city for issuing the certificate of occupancy despite that stuff, and boo on my lawyer for advising me not to have it inspected when I bought…

  50. shades_of_blue says:

    What they need is one of those antique non-UL certified lamps parked right under the water damage. With any luck, the next rain season would take care of the rest.

  51. FezMan88 says:

    Wow, this is terrible… Alert the media!

    Seriously, if they even got on the local news, the masses could see the extent of their damage. That way they can get advice on how to handle their arbitration and/or court proceedings without havig to rely on a judge who hasn’t even seen the damage, or depending your income on an arbitrator who will never see the house at all.

    Media, media, media

  52. thedreamingtree says:

    Nothing is built to last anymore, look at the shoddy bridges that keep falling.

    Just like every other thread around here that gets derailed, why are some trying to turn this into a treatise on Christians and Republicans? I’m sorry if the Neocons in office have turned you against actual, real Christians and/or Republicans. The sooner you and others wake up out of the left/right paradigm, the better off we all will be.

  53. BK88 says:

    @THEDREAMINGTREE:
    Nice cheap shot on bridges that have lasted much longer than they were
    designed for. Its easy to take the name calling route instead of having
    a real discussion. Just a typical liberal.

  54. topgun says:

    In Indiana where I live a county building inspector would come in at various times. When the builder would get to a certain point everything stopped until it was inspected. Because sometimes it would take the inspector over a week to arrive I was kind of irritated by the delays, but after reading this, I’m glad. I’m guessing 75% of the problems with this home would not have been discovered with only an inspection upon completion.

  55. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @thedreamingtree: Christians and Republicans have managed to turn me against themselves without help from commenters on Consumerist, thanks. A pox on both their houses, double where they overlap, and triple on the adherents of other religions and Democrats.

    Anyway, to get back on topic, I live in Houston and my boyfriend works as an artist for a real estate brokerage. We sit with the floorplans and a glass of wine and laugh ourselves silly. Workmanship is so shoddy we are sure we could do better with a Home Depot line of credit, a D-I-Y book or three, and our own four hands. Those Katrina cottages, along with some “sweat equity,” are looking better and better.

  56. swordfish2eva1 says:

    I live in those same homes in this woman and trust me this place truly is quite messed up

  57. junkmail says:

    Too bad Mike Holmes is Canadian. He’d have a field day if he ever moved the show to the U.S.

  58. quantum-shaman says:

    @JeanNaimard: Oh please. Since when did “more government bureaucracy” solve any problem? We already have enough laws and regulations on the books to deal with problems like this…. it is the effective ADMINISTRATION of those laws and regs that we need, not more government assholes with a mandate, sitting around taking up space and sucking the lifeblood out of everything around them.

  59. quantum-shaman says:

    @mikeluisortega: And what he said.
    @hc5duke: And what he said.

  60. elf6c says:

    Ah Texas, America’s Punch Line.

  61. kelbear says:

    Violence looks pretty reasonable if justice cannot be had through law.

  62. elf6c says:

    And can we get a Mod to take care of the profanity above please? Yeesh.

  63. l951b951 says:

    @Namilia: “*wonders to this day how on earth he managed to be re-elected with the shit he’s done to our country*”


    Answer: Diebold.

  64. quantum-shaman says:

    @elf6c: A$$hole.

    Feel better?

  65. bonzombiekitty says:

    @junkmail: He’s done a few specials in the US.

  66. savvy9999 says:

    Jordan Fogal is a hero. May I suggest a Consumerist Hall of Fame for those individual citizens who rise up against corrupt mega-corporations that are clearly at fault for being a buncha bastards?

    Regardless of whether or not she wins (and I hope she does get justice someday) she should still be commended for putting up the thankless, good fight.

  67. gibsonic says:

    when i bought my home, new, 5 years ago, we didn’t hire an inspector at closing but I was able to catch quite a few things before the completion of construction and spent a healthy amount of time during the walk-through filling up sinks and bathtubs and making them fix even the most slight mis-painted area or nick in the wall. I made sure all the doors opened, closed, locked(were available)and swung properly.

    The house is still a entry level starter home built as cheaply as possible but it has not major defects other than being a cheaply built starter home.

    You get what you pay for. While my gut wrenched reading this and my sympathy pours out for these victims I can definitely see where they could have done a little better as consumers to watch out for their own interest.

    The first thing I did in my home inspection was go fill up the jacuzzi tub and run the jets, let it drain and did it again.

    Not testing or inspecting a home before you buy it is like not test driving a new car before you buy it…luckily, new cars have a decent warranty for stuff that breaks like this. Even more-so a reason why people should do as Ronald Reagan did with the Russians…”Trust, but verify”

  68. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I know someone briefly talked about this earlier in the comments, but can anybody tell me why they didn’t file a ginormous claim with their insurance company and let THEM duke it out with the builders….in COURT? The Fogals have an agreement to binding arbitration, but the insurance company doesn’t. I mean, isn’t that what insurance is for? Defects in workmanship or not – the house was ruined.

    And not to be a tart here, but the woman obviously has enough money to keep her hair colored and her acrylic nails done perfectly….just saying…

  69. According to the Intertubes, a gallon of water weighs about 8.34 pounds. That means 834 pounds of water came crashing through the ceiling. If the ceiling had fallen on the dining room table, and someone had been sitting at the dining room table, it’s safe to say that he or she would have suffered some serious injuries, or died, simply because some bastard contractor and homebuilder tried to save a few bucks.

    This story is shocking.

  70. Black Bellamy says:

    I really do feel for the buyer. I do.

    But…

    Look, if you’re going to be buying THE ONE HOME, the one you will live in, raise a family, retire in, the one that will be the centerpiece of your later years, do you not think it’s somewhat prudent, to INSPECT the house before you buy it?

    Yes, the dude is telling you it’s BRAND NEW, to NOT WORRY, that it will be ALL RIGHT, just sign here. So what? You gonna just trust some guy, some motherfucker you have never ever met before, with half a million of your dollars?

    You’re too cheap to spend $1500 on a good neutral home inspector? Too busy to run the hot tub before the sale? Don’t care to have an electrician check the wiring? Then you suffer and all your life is good for then is a sob story to get some pity on The Consumerist.

  71. hustler says:

    So can you buy or build a home without entering into an arbitration agreement? I understand that you don’t have to sign the papers, but does any builder or seller offer a sell without the arbitration?

  72. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @JeanNaimard:

    Do you actually have a point or are you just spouting crap for no reason? These people bought a 3 story house, I’m assuming they had money at one point or another.

  73. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @warf0x0r:

    You entered a contract with either Honda of America, your financial institution, or both. That arbitration clause probably won’t hold water.

  74. elf6c says:

    @quantum-shaman:

    Yeah, when they ban you.

    Till then, please take your potty-mouthed troll act elsewhere. The grownups are talking.

  75. lowlight69 says:

    …. what can you say…. that is seriously f’ed up.

  76. gibsonic says:

    OT…they are making grandmothers a lot nicer looking these days.

  77. aka Cat says:

    Always, ALWAYS, get your house inspected by an independent building inspector, before you sign the papers. It’s the best $300+ you’ll spend in the home-buying process.

    This couple has my sympathy; like them I learned that the hard way.

  78. hop says:

    how the hell can something like this happen in our country????????this story is a bummer…………..

  79. JayXJ says:

    @ChrisC1234:

    Very smart, so would I. BUT a lot of people assume that it’s brand new and they don’t need to.

  80. kelbear says:

    @Black Bellamy:

    Home inspection doesn’t have to cost $1500 (though it would still be worth it even if it was).

    My father is a home inspector(Precision Home Inspection) in NJ, and he usually bills around $500. I don’t think he’s charged over $1000 for even giant mansions and commercial buildings.

  81. lalawgirl says:

    It sounds like the homeowners may have a malpractice case against their attorneys.

  82. m.ravian says:

    @speedwell:
    i totally agree. those Katrina cottages are awesome. i have a dream of someday building my own house, from the ground up.

    when i live in Houston, i was appalled at the sheer amount of building going on in every goddamn nook and cranny of that god forsaken city. not only were they everywhere, they were ugly as sin.

    as far as i can tell, however, the inner loop of Houston is fairly liberal, as Texas goes…then again, i lived in Montrose, which is pretty much the gayborhood.

  83. Joe B. Low says:

    Any time you see the word arbitration in an agreement, read it well. Arbitration can be a fair way to resolve conflicts, if the consumer is treated equally and has the opportunity to select the arbitrator. However, even in the best of cases, a typical arbitration will not designate a “winner” and a “loser.” Most arbitrators will simply split the baby then send you on your way.

  84. thedreamingtree says:

    @ BK88:

    The fact that you would call me a liberal shows how much attention you really pay to anything. Who did I call a name? No one.

  85. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @lookatmissohio: Heh, yeah it is. :)

    You aren’t kidding about the nook and cranny crap, either. The other day I was trying to find a through street between Richmond and Westheimer back behind the Wal-Mart on Dunvale. Tucked back in where I thought there was nothing but low-income apartments full of saggy-diapered children and loud rednecks, bars full of winos, shabby taquerias, and questionable dance parlors, was a group of those insane “city condos” that are three stories high, ornamented, stuccoed, Palladian-windowed, gated, and too close together for a cat to get between. They probably went for a few hundred thou apiece and were built worse than your childhood treehouse. They looked like diamonds in a pile of something that would offend comrade JayP71 if I was to say it right out loud.

    And don’t get me started on the “naked” apartment building down there on the corner of Richmond and Sage. My blood pressure goes up every time I see it. Basically it is a high-rise that they ran out of money before they got the glass put on, so they painted it a strange shade of pinkish, yellowish ivory. It looks like an erect… sorry, JayP, hide your eyes, there’s no pretty way to say this….

  86. thwarted says:

    Man, when we buy, we’re so buying an old house. I hate these companies.

  87. Jon Mason says:

    To all those saying “tough, you should have got home inspection”. Yes, they should, BUT: What kind of world do we live in where you buy a product costing hundreds of thousands, it is proven defective within hours of changing hands, you have ample evidence of defects but yet the seller/builder is not held responsible to make compensation/repairs? It’s just common sense – if it was any product other than a house, the manufacturer would be held liable, no matter what the ins and outs of the law say, it should be no different here – if the law says otherwise, it needs changing.

  88. joemono says:

    This is obviously awful, but I have to wonder about: “the windows were installed upside down.” Maybe I don’t understand window installation, but isn’t that something that would be obvious, even without a home inspection?

  89. Buran says:

    @warf0x0r: I signed an arbitration agreement not to sue my dealer for the car I bought — but I did lots of research and the guy I worked with came highly recommended and he and I both knew I was an informed buyer. No problems. But I wouldn’t do that for someone I didn’t know in and out. This guy had a long, long track record of working with people.

    That said … could you not sue the carmaker for putting defective parts on a vehicle, if that was actually the case?

  90. killavanilla says:

    @JayP71:
    All people should pay for an inspection, no matter if the house is new, was built by your dad, etc.
    It is worth every penny. Home inspectors are skilled at finding issues most folks don’t even know about.
    My friends new condo was a BRAND NEW building. His inspectors found bad pipes and 2 outlets that were sub-par and violated local ordinances. Had he not sprung for the inspections, he would have been screwed.
    If you can afford a house, you can afford an inspection.
    Every time.

  91. junkmail says:

    @bonzombiekitty: yeah? Missed those. That guy’s my hero.

  92. warf0x0r says:

    @Buran: Honestly I don’t know, I doubt I’ll have any problems but it was interesting to note that nobody made mention of this like it was no big deal when clearly this system is being heavily used against consumers to benefit organized business. I think that whomever inserts the clause should have to disclose, ideally verbally that you are bound to arbitration in this purchase so that you can make a decision. I’d probably walk away every time I was notified that I’d be limited to arbitration.

  93. erratapage says:

    We successfully arbitrated a dispute with our builder through the AAA. We treated the arbitration as if it were a lawsuit, hiring an attorney, obtaining expert witnesses and preparing a very thorough case. Once it was done, we still had to pursue the builder in court to enforce our arbitration award. He declared bankruptcy and we received pennies on the dollar.

    I feel for this homeowner. Her arbitration award seems ridiculously low, and I have to wonder if she isn’t entitled to an award of attorney fees under the arbitration clause (probably not).

  94. swalve says:

    If you didn’t know there was an arbitration clause in the contract, you had bad representation when you signed it. Two. Just sue them. Fuck arbitration, if you didn’t know it was in the contract, the contract isn’t valid. You know, contract law, etc. Stop whining and buy a house that isn’t pink.

  95. puka_pai says:

    @masonreloaded: What kind of world do we live in where you buy a product costing hundreds of thousands, it is proven defective within hours of changing hands, you have ample evidence of defects but yet the seller/builder is not held responsible to make compensation/repairs?

    The kind of world that conservative grandma Jordan Fogal voted for. Now that the “pro-bidness” policies that she favored with her political support have come to nip her in the pocketbook, she cries foul.

    Ye reap what ye sow.

  96. TexasWhocares says:

    As someone who knows the case extremely well I would like to thank all of you who have made constructive comments about Jordan’s fight.
    Some of the issues you have raised in your questions come from the fact that you live in different states with different laws. Jordan’s situation is specific to Texas. Someone who has not gone as far as she has with this issue (even lawyers) do not understand this situation as it is in Texas. (see The Great State of Texas where no one cares)

    Now for what she has not mentioned, or what the consumerist may have been forced to edit.

    One of the partners in the company is now a federally convicted felon, (Norman Chapa) for attempting to illegally import Chinese labor. I am guessing to work on the construction of new homes. Was illegal Mexican labor getting too expensive for them? (On numerous occasions they have been unable to find their labor records so I am only supposing it was illegal labor.) The Houston City council continues to give this company money to build affordable housing under various company names, as well as for streets, water and sewer, which has run into the millions of dollars over the past five years. (Public records)

    The city council, upon being notified by Jordan Fogal about the funds being given to a convicted felon during a public city council meeting, held up the contract for two weeks. Just long enough for Mrs. Fogal not to attend the next public city council meeting to remind them about what they were doing. (If I remember correctly the city gave a Tremont subsidiary $250,000 that day.)

    If you look into the city councils campaign contributions you will notice what looks like a pattern of when contributions are made and when money is awarded to this company.

    Perry Homes contributed 5 million in campaign contributions in 2006, do you think that they are getting nothing for this money? Tremont is just piggy backing on Perry’s money in many cases, and contributing on the local level when necessary.

    Housing Lobbyist is murdered in his home after attending party with Tremont owners (see Houston Chronicle) still unsolved at this time. (Not saying they did it, but it is curious don’t you think?)

    County Judge Robert Echols (also Homeland security advisor for the city of Houston) appoints Tremont owner Jorge Casimiro to Harris county Housing Authority, after his company is fired from building the Bunker Hill police station. (Houston is in Harris County, See Houston Chronicle about the police station)

    Jorge Casimiro’s company also buys Judge Echols house. (Public records)

    Texas has a new agency for the “protection” of home buyers. It is called the Texas Residential Construction Commission, or as we say in Texas “Tricky”. The most interesting thing about the TRCC is that its scope, rules and authority were written by Perry Homes in house lawyers, to quote Representative Coleman, “Only in Texas can you buy your own government agency and regulate yourself.”

    Both district attorneys as stated by their assistants (County and City) do not see housing fraud or civil perjury as criminal cases nor does the Attorney General for the State of Texas.

    So in Texas, according to the district attorney and Attorney General, you can commit housing fraud, and mortgage fraud, commit perjury in civil suits and in arbitration without any consequences. So for any unscrupulous builder Texas is absolute paradise.

    Meanwhile, while some of these homes where being built, the company’s management had their girlfriends living in them. It made it very convenient, considering they were married at the time.

    What is just as interesting about this whole situation is that Jordan does not get sued. She has said many of the things I have written hear in public and private and written it in her flyers, but because it is all true they will not sue her.

    For those of you who think the media is the answer to this outrageous set of circumstances, I agree. However they don’t have the guts to run a story like this even though it has everything the public would watch or read; sex, corrupt officials, payoffs, and murder.

    All of the above is easy to verify, Jordan has done most of the leg work for any reporter who wants to win a Pulitzer, but the local media won’t run it even when they know it’s the truth, they have told Jordan this repeatedly.

    Now here is the worst part, the financial crisis of august 2007, is from bad loans, and foreclosures. However no one talks about the number of foreclosures due to poor construction and housing fraud. Companies like Tremont have their own Mortgage Company so they can approve anyone they want to for what ever amount and then sell the loans off to a major financial institution and get away clean. This is the easiest form of bank robbery in the world.
    Now that the financial institutions are catching hell for their stupidity, and people are losing their jobs, will the enormity of the process be revealed. The people who bought all these loans for their companies, were never going to admit they bought bad loans cooked up by fly by night mortgage companies, nor where they going to admit they did not review the documentation well enough to see the clues for mortgage fraud.
    Only now will their work be reviewed and all the loans purchased traced back to the originators will this show what a criminal enterprise it has been for the past several years.

    And be ready, because if this gets bad enough the government will start thinking about bailing them out, so not only does the homeowner get screwed, but our tax dollars will go to support the situation which allows it to continue.

  97. TexasWhocares says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers:

    Hey Pink Bunny, the insurance company will not sell you a policy which covers builder defects in a new home. Insurance company told Mrs. Fogal sorry not covered.

    However Tremont has since tried to sue their roofing company for the construction defects using Mrs. Fogals house has the prime example.

    Tremont has also filed suit against their own insurance company for the same issues.

  98. TexasWhocares says:

    @jrford8:

    If Consumerist will print my first post, you will see that the district attorney will not prosecute these types of crimes in the city of Houston, and the Attorney General for Texas said the same thing

  99. TexasWhocares says:

    @ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild:

    2/10 Warrenties in Texas are not worth the paper they are printed on, in this case I believe Mrs. Fogal was told her problems were not covered.

  100. TexasWhocares says:

    @slowinthefastlane:
    I would like to see you try and sue the city inspector department of any major city over a single residential unit, second of all if you could get Mrs. Fogal to write you about the city inspectors response to her outcry it would only make you wonder how much they got paid by the builder.

  101. TexasWhocares says:

    @ju-ju-eyeball: Nice thought but people go to jail for that kind of thing

  102. TexasWhocares says:

    @Jesse in Japan: Dear Jesse,
    District Attorney Harris County and City of Houston, both declined to discuss the issue with Mrs. Fogal and stated through their assistants that residential issues, even fraud, are civil matters, the AG said the same thing, along with he had more important issues to deal with

  103. TexasWhocares says:

    @zaka: I guess you diagnose your own disease, decide on treatment and operate on yourself.

    Question for you: How do you do research on a company that does not legally exist, that lies to the BBB about what name it is using, who it is and who the directors are to the point that the BBB HAS NO RECORD OF COMPLAINTS AT ALL. ONce Jordan Fogal took all of her information to the BBB about the name changes, misinformation and absolute lies, the BBB threw them out under all their names and guises.

    So I ask you, how would you do the research in this situation?

  104. TexasWhocares says:

    @hustler:

    Not in the city of Houston, all most all of Texas, ONe builder is even barred from using arbitration cantract in the sate of Texas for something similar to this situation, sorry forgot the name of the builder

  105. TexasWhocares says:

    @joemono: the upside down windows were a top sectiion of solid window panes (ie they don’t open) from the 10ft level streching upwards to the 11.5 ft level and were 2ft wide. So without a ladder to get to them how would you know that the weep holes where on top of the window instead of the bottom. Even if you did look at them 99% of the people in the world wouldn’t know what they were looking at.

  106. TexasWhocares says:

    @puka_pai: You have now been insulting to someone that does not deserve it, I hope you reap what you sow

  107. texas-resident says:

    I have been involved in arbitration twice; in Colorado to discharge an inept homebuilder and in Texas to recover lost value from a deplorable investment touted by my “big name” brokerage house. In each case the arbitrator was totally biased; it was obvious from the beginning that the other party would prevail. The little person has minimal chance to win in arbitration—avoid it.
    Construction of our current Texas house was a night mare; builder had to replace 1. dining room bay area wall (rain leaks) no fewer than four times, 2. entire concrete drive and parking area, 3. all roofing material, 4. all windows to double pane, 5. plus a myriad of lesser stuff. Took several years, but they did complete all work satisfactorily.

  108. gibsonic says:

    Don’t mess with texas. Texas will mess with you!

  109. sluggo says:

    Jury Finds “Toxic Mold” Harmed Oregon Family, Builder’s Arbitration Clause Not Binding: [www.industrialnewsupdate.com]

    On the other hand:
    http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/newpdf/1/2004/2004-Ohio-5057.pdf

    FWIW:
    September 1 [2007] deadline looming for Texas home builders
    [www.pegasusnews.com]

    Texas Court Finalizes KB Home Arbitration Class Action Lawsuit
    [www.hobb.org]

  110. billco says:

    How is it at all possible for a company (such as the contractors) to completely avoid responsibility for their own product ?

    What’s stopping someone from “building” a cardboard home, selling it for half a mil, then watching the new owner kill themselves the moment they step inside ?

    I’m a bit of a loose cannon, but I’d advocate a civil suit against every single person involved in the construction of that house, along with the arbitrator(s). Racketeering and fraud.

    In some parts of the world, this kind of betrayal would quickly earn a bullet to the head.