Daily Journal 05-20-2006 (House Mold)

Daily Journal 05-20-2006 (House Mold)

Home sour home

Owners finding defects in newly-constructed houses

By Robyn MonaghanRivulets are running through their lawns, rain is running through their roofs and they say the home builder is giving them the run-around.

Neighbors in Bourbonnais’ Eagle Creek Estates subdivision have asked village officials to step in after months of complaining to Kennedy Homes about what they say are defects in the new houses and yards, complaints they say have yielded no results.

On Thursday, residents circulated leaflets urging the homeowners to band together to push the builder to get its own houses in order.

Mayor Bob Latham vowed to hold Kennedy Homes’ “nose to the fire” after about eight homeowners aired their frustrations at last week’s village board meeting.

“The village will take the lead role in this fight,” Latham said. “We’ll hold the developer’s nose to the fire, if need be.”

John and Kelly Recchia, a couple in their 30s, moved their flock of five kids from a cramped rental in Chicago’s south suburbs to a sprawling 3,100-square foot house in Eagle Creek last November. They decided to go the distance and build a new house so they wouldn’t be nickled and dimed later for maintenance problems.

“Big Houses, Low prices,” was the Kennedy Homes advertising that caught their eye, Kelly Recchia said.

“We bought a new house because we thought it was the safest thing,” she said.

Like many neighbors now banding together in a movement to get satisfaction, the Recchias came to Bourbonnais in search of the American dream: Reasonable home prices, good schools and neighborhoods where their kids can play safely outside.

The Rafe family, who drove past Bourbonnais to visit relatives downstate, visited a Kennedy home in Manhattan before buying from a sales person in Bourbonnais.

Now, their master bedroom is freezing and the floor moves when they walk over it, Latanya Rafe said. A beam is poking through their basement wall. They didn’t think much about the unfinished walls in their garage until they recently learned that drywalled garage walls are required by village code.

“It’s like if you don’t bring it up, they won’t bring it up either,” said Rafe.

Kelly Recchia, a stay-at-home mother, became so educated in village and state building codes through her struggles to get her house made whole, that she’s thinking of becoming an inspector herself, she said.

Inspectors scramble

With houses sprouting up faster than dandelions in Bourbonnais, building inspectors are scrambling to keep up. Last week, the village appointed substitutes to back up its three full-time and three part-time inspectors. Bourbonnais this year has issued building permits to 100 homes, each requiring about 20 inspections, Village Administrator Frank Koehler said.

Still, frustration exists.

“We wrote out a check for the down payment. We kept our part of the bargain,” Rafe said. “It’s like they got the money. They’re done with us. They move on to the next house.”

That’s not the way Kennedy does business, said Bill Gronow, a partner in Kennedy’s Barrington office. The company, in business for 40 years, built about 150 homes in Manhattan’s new Leighkinbridge subdivision. Manhattan village officials said they’ve had no complaints against Kennedy Homes. The builder is on track to erect many of 1,000 homes on the map in Bradley’s new Summerfield Estates. It built 75 homes in Eagle Creek Estates, and plans another 25.

“That’s now who we are,” Gronow said. “It’s not our way of doing business to build homes and then just walk away.”

Note: Attorney Thomas Zimmerman filed a lawsuit against Kennedy Homes on behalf of a homeowner whose house developed mold.

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