Hoy Cooke bought his home in Jennings after his retirement, downsizing from a larger space.
But the house, built by DR Horton, a national homebuilding company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a “debacle,” he said Monday. The humidity in his house is around 73%, some walls are crooked, none of the doors close properly and his front yard has drainage problems, Cooke said.
Cooke is one of many people who have complained about the craftsmanship of DR Horton and his subcontractors.
Homes built by DR Horton include “defective” in the way they are designed to handle the humidity in southern Louisiana, Baton Rouge-based attorney Lance Unglesby claimed at a news conference Monday.
“Residents of DR Horton have complained that their homes are damp, they don’t smell good, they smell like mildew and they just don’t feel comfortable,” Unglesby said. “DR Horton, an out-of-state homebuilder, has failed at the way they build their homes.”
Two individual lawsuits have been filed against DR Horton in Lafayette Parish and a lawsuit has been filed with multiple plaintiffs in East Baton Rouge Parish. The plaintiffs have asked a judge to classify that complaint as a class-action lawsuit against DR Horton.
The lawsuits are represented by Unglesby and Lafayette attorneys Lance Beal, Alan Haney and Yul B. Lurio.
A spokesperson for DR Horton, Jessica Hansen, said foundations and structures are designed by professional engineers based on site-specific conditions, building materials are selected based on performance and durability.
Air-conditioning systems are designed in accordance with the standards of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers and local building codes, Hansen said. In addition to local inspections, external inspectors are deployed throughout the process to supplement quality control.
“The health and safety of our homeowners is a top priority, and DR Horton is committed to providing superior customer service and building quality homes and neighborhoods in Louisiana and across the United States,” Hansen said in an email.
She added that DR Horton homes come with “a robust warranty that exceeds the duration required by the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act.
Unglesby said the law firms have hired experts to inspect more than 50 homes in Lake Charles, Jennings, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Slidell.
“In each of those neighborhoods, the house has a design problem,” Unglesby said.
Unglesby said the hired experts found that the homes they inspected did not have proper ventilation in the attics, causing moisture to build up in the house.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers recommends relative humidity be kept below 65% to reduce the chance of conditions that would lead to microbial growth.
Some homes inspected by experts hired by the law firms found homes with 70-80% humidity.
“I don’t think any of us need to be experts to know that 80% is unacceptable,” he said. “Nobody should be forced to live in a house with 80% humidity.”
The high humidity caused mold to grow in some homes, including on door frames, air conditioning vents, shoes and books, Unglesby said.
In one of the Lafayette Parish lawsuits, the plaintiff alleged that a DR Horton representative told the homeowner that DR Horton builds under the federal mandate code, but that code isn’t appropriate for the southern Louisiana humidity.
“That code was not designed for a very moist market,” the lawsuit said. “We’re doing what we’re required to do by law, but it’s not really designed for homes in South Louisiana.”
DR Horton largely denied the allegations in that lawsuit, claiming that the homeowners were required by law to go through an arbitration process before they could sue. Unglesby argued Monday that DR Horton is hiding behind the arbitration clause to prevent the issues from becoming public.
“While DR Horton denies the allegations in these lawsuits, we take them seriously. We are proud of the homes we sell and try not to ‘hide’ behind an arbitration clause as alleged,” Hansen said in an email.
“The arbitration clause features prominently in our contracts and is common in home sales contracts. Arbitration is generally preferred in Louisiana because it is typically faster and less expensive than court proceedings which can often take years, and arbitration is much more likely to deliver just and deliver rapid results for all involved.”
Homeowners Unglesby and the other attorneys they work with said they had filed claims with DR Horton and notified the company of the issues. Some of them, like Cooke, have had the company and its contractors come to their homes nearly two dozen times to solve problems to no avail.
Unglesby challenged DR Horton on Monday to dispute the lawyers’ claims about the flaws in their clients’ homes.
“DR Horton needs to come out of the shadows. They need to stop hiding behind an arbitration clause. They need to stop cheating their clients and answer these questions,” Unglesby said. “We are going to have one of the hottest summers we’ve ever had. I now have a lot of customers who are extremely upset.”
“DR Horton has not been transparent,” he added. “But DR Horton has too many houses in Louisiana to get away with this.”
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: DR Horton’s Homes Not Built for Humidity in Louisiana, Lawyers Claim