Water seeps, cold air penetrates, cracks form in new home

March 01, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The Honsbergers say they don't like to show off their house in Gaither. It embarrasses them.

"When people ask us who built our house, it's not because they want one like it," said Cindy Honsberger.

Since they moved into the $238,000 home two years ago, they say, they have waged a steady battle with Powers Homes, the subcontractor for S&P Homes in Pikesville.

"Powers was subcontracted by the partnership to build homes in the Obrecht Road area," said Jeff Powers, owner of Powers Homes.

The Honsbergers said Mr. Powers is the "P" in the partnership.

"Our use and occupancy permit lists Powers as the builder," said James H. Honsberger.

After calling Powers Homes and writing repeatedly with complaints, the Honsbergers said, they contacted an attorney. They would like to file a civil suit but the terms of their sales contract require them to go to arbitration with the builder.

"I plan to have other homeowners and subcontractors at the arbitration hearing," said Mr. Honsberger, who said he has made a video of every faulty detail in his house.

Mr. Powers said, "Our records show there really weren't complaints. The owners have waited two years, and the onus is on them to prove the defects were there at the start."

The Honsbergers have copies of two certified letters -- with signatures acknowledging receipt -- that they sent to Powers Homes in 1992. One of the letters says many of the defects were cited for correction during an inspection before they settled on the house Jan. 17, 1992.

Mr. Powers said he is awaiting more specifics before going to arbitration.

"Arbitration would ultimately be with S&P," Mr. Powers said. "I have a letter from the Honsbergers' attorney, but it speaks in generalities. I need more definitives."

The problems the Honsbergers claim on their property range from irksome to serious.

Early last month, the Honsbergers said, the family of four suddenly had no water. A plumber discovered that wiring to the water pump caused the malfunction.

"The plumber and I looked at the jumbled wiring and shook our heads," Mr. Honsberger said. "It was installed improperly."

The well had to be treated with chlorine after the pump was reinstalled, and for a week after the incident, the family could not drink the well water.

"I love this house," Ms. Honsberger said. "It is really pretty, but I see problems now and serious ones in years to come."

A raccoon got into the basement through a hole in the garage, the Honsbergers said, and the family cat can fit through a wide crack in the sidewalk and hide under the front porch. The patio is cracked. The concrete in the garage is not level.

Trim molding is splitting in many places; water leaks into the basement and stains the walls and carpet. Drafts blow in around the switches and outlets. Closet doors are hung improperly -- one fell off as 3-year-old David opened it, the Honsbergers said.

"I wonder every day what is going to happen next," Ms. Honsberger said. "The house looks 10 years old, not new."

Contractors sent by Powers Homes come "by the dozens, but they don't do anything or they caulk," she said.

"Instead of taking something apart to see what's wrong, we get Band-Aids," she said. "Six months later, you are calling for another Band-Aid, when you need surgery."

Mr. Honsberger said he has "no confidence in what Powers is doing any more."

"We are done with Powers except to get a judgment in our favor at arbitration," he said. "We don't want them to touch a single thing on our home."

In every room of the five-bedroom house, Ms. Honsberger points to things she believes are wrong. She predicts that the snow on the deck will eventually melt under the sliding glass door into a puddle on the kitchen floor.

"The door has missing parts and was installed wrong," said Gerard Zubrowski, a licensed contractor whom the couple hired to do repairs.

Mr. Zubrowski said he is willing to testify to faulty installation at the arbitration hearing.

Ms. Honsberger keeps towels by another slider in the basement so the carpet won't get soaked. Similar annoyances detract from the pride she would take in her home.

"They put shoe molding behind the splash board in the kitchen," she said. "It just doesn't look right. They take no time to handle the detail work."

The Honsbergers say two fireplaces leaked because the contractor had neglected to tar the bases. Mr. Powers said the work passed a county inspection.

The couple said they have spent nearly $10,000 on repairs. They recently hired Mr. Zubrowski to do more, including tearing down the walls in their son's bedroom.

"We know something is wrong because air is blowing in on your feet like a window is cracked," Ms. Honsberger said.

The couple said they once renovated a 40-year-old townhouse without the problems or expense they are experiencing in their new house.

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