EAST COUNTY — Residents of the Willowbrook community won’t be getting their homes purchased back by KB Home, but they may be leading the way to protect future homebuyers, at least in part.
After hearing from Willowbrook residents about water intrusion and other home-construction issues Aug. 21, at a Manatee County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Manatee County officials are working on legislation that could make void any provision for mandatory binding arbitration in residential construction contracts — an issue that has cost some residents in Willowbrook thousands of dollars without improvements to their home, they said.
While presenting the commission with an update on the Willowbrook situation Sept. 6, Manatee County Attorney Mickey Palmer said the item is being incorporated into the county’s legislative program during the next legislative session.
“It’s something we are pursuing,” Palmer said.
A three-page memorandum on the status of Willowbrook detailed other findings by the county attorney’s office on issues pertaining to the community.
George Glance, president of KB Home’s Central Florida operations, attended the meeting to answer questions from commissioners, and said KB home had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Willowbrook Condominium Association regarding repairs to Willowbrook units. The association will select an engineer and contractor to determine and perform repairs necessary to Willowbrook’s 51 buildings and 270 units, at KB’s expense, he said.
“This is not a settlement,” Glance said. “We’re not writing a check and walking away. We’re standing side-by-side with the association. We continually fulfilled our obligation to our (homeowners). We’re ready to get to work.”
Some items in the memorandum, such as methodologies, are still being addressed, he said.
As of press time, the Willowbrook Condominium Association had not released copies of the memorandum to residents, as requested. No representative of the association attended the Sept. 6 meeting.
KB declined to provide a copy of the memorandum to the East County Observer.
Glance also stated that KB would not buy units within Willowbrook, as a group of about 50 homeowners is requesting. But, he did say if repairs to units were extensive, making the home uninhabitable, that KB would pay to temporarily relocate affected homeowners.
After Willowbrook residents spoke about their homes’ deterioration, consequent health issues and other concerns, commissioners aired their own frustrations with the situation, before finding a meeting room in which Glance could speak directly with homeowners after the meeting.
They also encouraged homeowners to be cooperative with contractors to ensure repairs could be done holistically. Previously, some homeowners had denied KB’s contractors access to their homes to make repairs.
“We’re sorry (you have to go through this),” At-Large Commissioner Carol Whitmore said. “Let’s get this fixed. Let’s all try to get a resolution.”
Commissioner Donna Hayes said Sen. Mike Bennett is working to create a lemon law for housing in Florida, based on the Willowbrook situation.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
By the Numbers
32 — Number of letters sent ordering repair of balconies in Willowbrook
33 — Number of units in Willowbrook posted with unsafe notices, as of Aug. 31
51 — Number of buildings in Willowbrook
270 — Number of units in Willowbrook
Willowbrook homeowner Dan Koehler, one of several residents leading a charge to have KB Home purchase back residences, said the meeting with George Glance, president of KB Home’s Central Florida operations, was appreciated but provided little new information.
Koehler said homeowners would continue to take a consumer advocacy role in helping make potential KB Home homebuyers aware of KB’s business practices and problems they and other owners are facing with their homes.
“It’s (about) more than us,” he said. “It’s protecting future buyers.”