HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — From house to house, half a dozen homeowners in a Valrico subdivision showed us hundreds of cracking, popping and hollow tiles.
Working couples and retirees shelled out $300K to $400K for their brand new forever homes between two and three years ago.
Some, like Laura Burch, says she wakes up every day thinking about and worrying what the future holds for her and her neighbors. The builder, Alpha Homes, which also does business as Suarez Housing, provided a one year warranty. Every homeowner we interviewed except for one showed us proof via certified mail, texts, or emails they reported hollow, popping or cracking tiles during their first year.
Suarez honored the warranty in some cases, replacing rooms full of tiles for both Laura Burch and Tom Wodka but now less than a year later the same defect affects the new tiles. Every homeowner we met with says they can’t get the builder to respond.
Contractor Jim Beavers, of Andro Beavers and Associates, estimates he's done 800 to 900 tile floors. He examined four of the affected homes. His opinion, either the installer did not coat the back of the tiles with enough of a material called thinset to get them to adhere to the foundation or the thinset itself was defective.
Alpha Homes and Saurez Housing appear to be winding down operations. The office sits vacant and we could find only a handful of homes they pulled permits for in the last year.
The owner Robert Suarez did not return our calls and this gate stopped us from knocking on his door. But we did speak to his attorney. Mickey Keenan says they will work with homeowners and sub-contractors to find out what caused the defects in the tile and come up with a resolution.
Tired of waiting Tom Wodka has filed suit against the builder who in turn is suing three of its subcontractors. Other Suarez homeowners are filing complaints with state regulators and applying for relief from the Florida Construction Recovery Fund. The fund governed by state law to provide relief to Florida homeowners who've been financially harmed by a licensed contractor.
For more information on the state’s construction recovery fund go to http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/cilb/documents/recov_faqs.pdf.