DeNova Woes

First, apologies to my realtor, I know he wanted me to drop this nonsense against DeNova Homes, as much of what I have written about will need to be disclosed when we sell. However, I can’t sit on my hands and let them just run over us, our house and their issues. Sadly, Facebook reminded me it was three years, March 14 when we the keys were in my hands to a big money pit, located in the Emerson Ranch development of Oakley.

Based on appearance, this was a development I would drive by on the way to my in-laws and think, “sure would be nice to own a new home.” Unfortunately, luck came through and we purchased a new home from DeNova. While I won’t recant all the problems we’ve had since we’ve taken ownership, as they are all on my site, just type in ‘DeNova’ in the search bar.

Last week, it was discovered there was a leak in the upstairs bathroom. How long it had been leaking is unknown, venturing a guess I would say a few weeks, but it can’t really be determined, nor does it matter. It wasn’t caught, as it was leaking from the supply line, under the toilet and not on a regular basis. The only way I found it was cleaning the bathroom and I noticed the grout in the tile was a dark shade of brown. That and the comment from my wife and son about a wet area just inside his room. Having had water damage in the previous two houses in Oakley, you would think we would be experts in knowing if we had a leak.

In hindsight, that wet spot was the water leaking in the bathroom. I put a call into the emergency line for DeNova, as I figured this is their problem and not the first we’ve had. I also contacted my insurance company, opened a claim just to cover my ass. DeNova got a plumber there within a few hours and come to find out, the supply line wasn’t not even finger tight. Why after three years had it started leaking? Who knows? Honestly, who cares, but it goes to show the poor craftsmanship and effort put forth by DeNova Homes and their subcontractors.

Water damage is not fun, thankfully it was caught earlier enough that major problems, like we experienced in our first house, didn’t occur. The following day, the remediation company, selected by DeNova Homes came over to start the drying and dehumidifying process. Never fun, they displaced my son, with the carpet pulled back and a blower going, nonstop for five days.

A DeNova customer service representative stopped by early last week, as my wife discussion varies problems still experienced, along with the water leak. It took approximately two weeks for DeNova to get the personnel to resolve the problem. This required drying out all the areas that were wet, which included carpet, tile and drywall, while removing baseboard and wood unable to be dried. In the end, the tile was not able to be dried to the satisfaction of the remediation company and a week later it was all removed to the sub flooring.

DeNova also cut into some custom closet shelving that still hasn’t been resolved. It’s my guess that if we don’t push the issue they will continue to get away with poor customer service, something they are becoming quite known for. There also seems to be a disconnect between the manager, who my wife and I have dealt with and the customer service representative. We were told to send an email of ALL unresolved issues, but surprise! The manager said all the problems were resolved and DeNova wouldn’t address them. Not that I am surprised, again POOR customer service on the part of this home builder.

In the end the bathroom was repaired, but the lack of care and quality craftsmanship remains. DO NOT be talked into buying a home from this company. They will show you one thing and sell you another. You are buying a very poorly constructed home that will have MANY problems. Just look at all the problems we cited that they decided not to address that are now bigger problems.


On Our Dime

After yesterday’s post and poor installation on our bathtub surround we have decided to go a different direction. While frustration has gotten the better part of us, my wife I can’t believe we are the only people in our development who have experienced problems. In fact I know others have had issues with their new homes, but not sure what lengths they have gone to in order to resolve them. DeNova Homes probably views me as “that homeowner” when it comes to our expectations not being met, but taking our battle to social media, which has been effective, but hasn’t resolved the initial problem. We are pleased to be dealing with Lori Sanson, the Vice President of the company, who seems to have a vested interest in our problems and to resolve them.

After further discussion with my wife, we have decided to hire a professional contractor to do what DeNova’s sub-contractors seemingly can’t accomplish. After the initial tub surround installation and Thursday’s second attempt to replace the entire surround, we will remove and replace our master bathroom tub surround. Yesterday, I met with the individual who’s tasked with the job. As he measured and discussed what he was going to do, he was appalled by the poor job that Marble Palace did to replace the e-stone walls. Measurements confirmed the fact the walls weren’t even and one piece of e-stone is cut too short. As for this upcoming demolition and replacement, my wife and I are going to foot the bill for the repairs.

Fair to us as homeowners? Not the least, but we are tired, disappointed and frustrated to the point of anxiety of getting things accomplish and want to start enjoying the house. It’s only been 8 months since I brought this issue to DeNova Homes prior to the close of escrow, at which point I was told it would be taken care of. Since March 17, the bathtub surround has gone from bad to worst to unacceptable! This latest installation of the tub surround, as I highlight yesterday is terrible! I would like to think that my friends and other DeNova homeowners in similar situations wouldn’t accept the work and seek to resolve the ongoing tub surround issue.

As of today, my wife has not received any phone calls from Ms. Sanson, nor have I received a reply from her. However she did text the warranty manager and voiced her displeasure. It appears we will have another visit by DeNova Homes to see the work accomplished before they decide to move forward. For us, demolition begins Tuesday morning, regardless if DeNova Homes has been to view the tub surround or not. We don’t want to wait any longer to get the tub surround professional tiled.

Another Round with DeNova Homes

“Enjoy the home.” “Have a housewarming party.” Just two comments that still linger in my mind after the purchase. These were communicated to me, by my realtor, after numerous emails to DeNova Homes and some scathing comments made on this website. Unfortunately, here we are nearly 8 months later and we are still in a battle with #dontbuydenova to get our home to the level of satisfaction it should have been at when we closed escrow. At the center of the frustration, the master bathroom tub surround. This one area continues to draw attention because of the poor craftsmanship used to construct it.

Early this year there came a point where DeNova Homes offered to buy the home back. While their offer wasn’t satisfactory, they suggested to remove and replace the engineered stone with tile. Unfortunately their settlement agreement didn’t favor us and released DeNova Homes of future liability, under advisement from an attorney friend we did not accept the offer. Most recently, the offer finally came to replace the engineered stone surrounding the bathtub. This was what we asked for before we even closed escrow.

Why it’s taken countless visits from their warrant manager, the Director of Operations and the Vice President of the company is beyond me. This issue continues to cost DeNova Homes more time and money and still there has been no resolution. Without warning, Marble Palace, the company contracted to do the repairs showed up a few weeks back without advanced notice, saying they were going to replace the tub surround. After about 30 minutes, I noticed they were packing up. It seemed half of the shower would need to be removed in order to accomplish the repairs. Their supervisor told them to stop the repair, they packed up their tools and left. An email was sent to the warranty manager who replied, ” Nothing was supposed to happen until they discussed the repair process so that I could provide additional assistance if need be.”

On December 1 I received an email from the warranty manager who would “schedule the final repairs for next Thursday the 8th. The arrival time will be between 8-12am.” I agreed and yesterday, while at work numerous contractors arrived to work on the outstanding issues. Kitchen cabinets were repaired and the trim was replaced. Many tiles on the kitchen and dining room floor that sounded hollow were removed, replaced and grouted.

Then there is the bathtub surround. *shakes head* Going back to a discussion I had with one of the sales associates regarding our house, she contacted the construction superintendent (real arrogant prick!) who mention to us the pony wall in the master bathroom was built incorrectly but not to worry, as it would be fixed before we moved in. Surprisingly that never happened, which in my mind has been part of the problem we have had with the tub surround. The initial complaint was a chipped piece of engineered stone on the tub surround wall. Contractors attempted to smooth it out, but it was quite evident the wall needed to be replaced. Instead of replacing the wall, they shortened the wall, so it didn’t match up with the other two walls. I won’t mention again just how poor the installation was, but it was not acceptable. While DeNova’s Director of Operations and warranty manager didn’t agree, we were fed up, which resulted in an email to the president.

Nearly all the work on the tub surround yesterday happened while I was at work, so I didn’t have an opportunity to see the actual construction of the wall behind the drywall. There was a plumber on sight who removed the hardware. The marble contractors removed the e-stone, but not really sure how, can only assume they cut portion of it with a saw and demoed the rest with a hammer. The drywall contractor then rehung new drywall. The last piece of e-stone was being cut and fitted into the plumbing wall when I walked in. Honestly, I didn’t pay close attention to the detail how how the install looked. Even if I did, I would not have said anything to the contractor. Now, after the fact I will saw NEVER use Marble Palace, this sub-contractor is terrible, not once but twice!

If that wasn’t enough, the house was filled with tile dust, dirt, pieces of concrete and all sorts of shit that could have been avoided if the marble installers would have run some plastic to contain their mess. Unfortunately they didn’t and my wife spent the better part of Friday cleaning the house because of their work.

When I finally got around to checking the tub, which we were told not to use for a few days in order to let the e-stone set, it was readily apparent problems still existed. Shaking my head, I could only stand there in awe wondering how Marble Palace saw this as an acceptable installation? Corners weren’t squared on the walls, the window sill was nearly three quarters of an inch lower than the walls surrounding the tub and instead of seeing the walls all overhanging the tub, now only part of the wall was hanging over the tub, while the opposite side was flush with the tub. Again, it’s UNACCEPTABLE work!

As of this writing, there has been no contact with DeNova Homes directly, however I did compose an email and send it to the Vice President…again. It really appears she is taking a vested interest in our well being, unlike the warranty manager, who doesn’t seem to really give a f*ck. My wife and I appreciate the fact she is involved, maybe her involvement will spur some changes to what they got away with when they finished our home.

Back Where We Started

bannerFour months have passed and not surprisingly we have come full circle and are back where we started with #dontbuydenova in March, after we closed escrow. Since Doublespeak, Lies & Banging posted in July quite a lot has transpired in our (not) custom home in the new Emerson Ranch development of Oakley. Our main point of contention,before we closed escrow was a very poorly constructed and finished bathtub surround. It’s unacceptable and deplorable that craftsmanship of this kind get past quality assurance. Then again, experiencing the demeanor of the Warranty Manager and Director of Operations it’s rather evident, they don’t see the home through the eyes of a homeowner. Continue to boast about “commitment to quality and integrity…attention to detail…values” in your mission statement we haven’t had that experience.

August 3, we surprisingly got a visit from Lori Sanson, Vice President of DeNova Homes, along with her Warranty Manger, Kevin Maloney. My wife was unaware of the identity of Ms. Sanson, until after she left, I thought the introduction had been made, it never was. As we all walked the house we pointed out issues that had been on our punch list since before we moved in not, “searching for every possible cosmetic blemish” Ongoing issues that had not been satisfied included poor finishing work, carpet pulling up from corners and transition areas, cabinets not aligned, hollow sounding tiles, e-stone that it stained, paint on the carpet and the master bathroom tub. These issues had been on our list since March, so nothing we were pointing out were new issues.

As we walked back to the kitchen, discussion between myself and Ms. Sanson ensued. In a followup e-mail  she wrote, “As mentioned, we want nothing more than for you to be happy in your home. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that this may not be possible.” I agreed that could possibly be the outcome, even if our punch list was fulfilled. This led to our options to resolve the ongoing situation. The first option would be DeNova Homes buying back the home for the purchase price (plus moving expenses). Honestly, this was never an option, but wanted to see what sort of figure they presented up. If it were not for the kennel we already purchased and installed, we might have considered selling.

The second option remove and replace the master tub and vanity with tile of our choice, selected from DeNova’s design center with a predetermined material budget. It took the vice president to FINALLY provide us with a feasible solution to the problem. August 5, we were presented with a settlement agreement from DeNova Homes. Now maybe it was their intention we wouldn’t read the actual agreement and blindly sign it. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, as the verbal agreement between myself and Ms. Sanson wasn’t close to how the settlement agreement read. We were suddenly liable for any amount in excess of the material budget that was agreed upon.

Needless to say this one section of the settlement agreement raised all sorts of red flags, which required another e-mail to be sent to get clarification from Ms. Sanson when we finally received the settlement agreement on September 7.

Ms. Sanson,

It appears our response to you went missing, as I emailed it over 3 weeks ago with a list of what issues we feel still need to be addressed. Topping that list was the tub enclosure, which I will address in a bit. As for items still on our list:

  • Kitchen cabinets and hallway linen cabinets
  • -Cabinet hardware in kitchen broken
  • -Cabinet alignment in kitchen and laundry room
  • Remove and replace touch pad on microwave (we have the part).
  • Valance window treatments are short, not covering the entire shade/window
  • Hollow tiles installed in the kitchen
  • Cracked kitchen tile back splash and grout. Tile guy took measurement, but has never returned.
  • Carpet lifting in front of downstairs living room cabinets, up the stairs and at transition points between rooms.
  • Master bath and upstairs bath e-stone still has deep marks on them, look like water spots, but don’t come off.
  • Complementary carpet cleaning, which won’t resolve the paint/and frayed carpet, but were not going to push this issue any longer.

The kitchen and master bathroom counter tops. I stopped by the models to look at the install of both to compare them to what we have. If you look at the attached file, 216-countertop.jpg, you will notice the two pieces are set at a 90 degree angle to each other. I guess this is a “standard” install. Compare that to the model-countertop.jpg and it’s more of a “custom” install. Just curious as to why our counter tops were not installed like those in the models?

As for the PDF you sent, we can’t agree to it as written because of “Section 3. Payment”. We were under the impression from your earlier email dated August 5th that DeNova, “2) …will remove and replace your master tub and vanity splash with tile of your choice.  A material allowance of $[removed] will be provided at our design center.” Reading the Section 3 as written, “Owners shall be liable for any  and all costs in excess of the [predetermined] credit.” That is not what we understand in our face to face discuss and previous email with you. We heard DeNova was going to pay for all costs associated with correcting the bathtub surround. The $[removed] was to spend at the design center, anything over that $[removed] would be offset by Christal and I.

If we were mistaken, please let us know. Like you, we don’t want to continue to drag this out longer. Time permitting you can speak with my wife if not, then we will need to look for another resolution to the tub surround issue.
Thank you,
Stephen Toumi & Christal Davis

Within minutes we had a response, which listed (as seen above) our outstanding items and our concern with the payment clause in the settlement agreement. She agreed, “your understanding of the material allowance for the master tub/vanity splash is the same as mine.  I will review with our General Counsel to make sure the language is clear.” Twenty days later, we received an updated settlement agreement to reveiew, sign and return.

I’ll be honest, we took our time reading and discussion this updated settlement agreement. Initial thoughts were positive and we were excited to move forward and get the bathtub surround replaced. The more time that passed, the less inclined I was to sign the agreement. I began reading certain clauses to my wife, as well as ‘Exhibit 1’, which included our “open items list.” Each item appeared to have a corrective item associated and we were pleased. ‘Section 3. Payment’ was revised to include what Ms. Sanson and I had verbally agreed to nearly a month earlier.

The more I read it, the more I was confused and decided to enlist the services of a high school friend who was an attorney up in Chico.  We had talked previously via Facebook, on and off topic about the house, reminding me, “ Be sure to read your purchase contract very carefully. You don’t want to get into a legal quagmire...If you need a hand let me know.” I sent him a copy of the contact to go over on October 19 and received an email on October 30, “We should talk before you make a decision to sign or not.” That alone did not sound promising.

However after talking to the attorney, we had made our decision not to accept the terms of the settlement agreement, as it was written to protect the interests of DeNova Homes. Sure, we could of had the bathtub surround removed and replaced, but potentially tie our hands and release DeNova Homes responsibility if further problems were to arise. With all the issues we had reported in a new home, we did not want to give away any potential opportunity to get something repaired while the home was still under warranty.

Now nearly 8 months since the close of escrow and we are still waiting to get issues resolved. I did receive an interesting comment from a reader on my #dontbuydenova: The Saga Continues post:

Hi Steve,

Thank you for posting your Denova home issues and lack of service by this company. We moved into our new home (Gilroy, Ladera Vista) in May 2015. On walk-thru, we found countless issues with the home. Many as you described. I asked the service manger (Chuck) if anybody from Denova walked through the home prior to our inspection to make certain issues were addressed BEFORE our walk through and he said that was his job! So, as far as quality control, nobody seems to be making sure the service managers are doing their job properly. A year and a half later, we are STILL trying to have issues addressed. I usually give people more chances than they deserve, but once I’m done, I’m done.

So, did you ever contact a lawyer to help the process along? I have sent messages to two firms, but have not heard back. I also read that some Denova home owners received letters from a firm in LA representing homeowners for faulty construction and lack of action to correct, but some people responded that there are law firms that send these letters to all new home owners.

Here is someone I do not know in the DeNova Homes’ Ladera Vista development in Gilroy, CA. Her comments echo many of the ongoing complaints we have had with DeNova since moving in. Tuesday will open another chapter, as the warranty manager, along with contractors will be visiting our house again “to inspect several of the outstanding items. The goal being that all subs can see what repairs we intend on having them make while at the same time allow them a chance to determine what material they will need to have ordered prior to starting  repairs.” Hmm, this was already done months ago! The floor tile guy, the carpet guy, the cabinet company, the tiled backsplash guy! They have all been here and took measurements in order to get materials together to repair. Not why we are doing this again! So, the saga continues…but I might get to fly my banner!

Doublespeak, Lies & Banging

All appears well and fine from the outside of Aspen-216.DeNova Homes excels in the art of doublespeak, when it comes to the ongoing problems at Aspen-216, Emerson Ranch in Oakley evidenced by a visit from their Warranty Manager and Director of Operations last Thursday. This appointment, followed a condescending email response from their Executive Vice President, Lori Sanson, in which I voiced my disappointment, frustration and anger with this home since we closed escrow on March 17. This meeting was to revisit a list of open items on our punch list, the most notorious being a bathtub surround and new issues DeNova Homes continues to deny are problems and up to their standard of “quality and integrity.”

There was no formal introduction of who this “boss” was, not that it made any difference appearing annoyed to even be at our house, deal these problems. We started in the kitchen, with cabinets having misaligned corners, dings, damage and trim pieces colored with a black felt pen instead of replaced. After a visit from Barbosa Cabinets, we have a pile of cabinet pieces in our kitchen, but nothing had been fixed with the exception of a cabinet door and alignment problems. Barbosa did make mention of the “lack of quality” and “poor installation” to my wife during their initial visit.

IMG_1525A bigger concern for us was the upgraded tile back splash, which appears to have been installed too fast, possibly incorrectly with some slippage occurring during the setting of the tile. Grout lines vary in size with no real consistency giving a wavy effect around the kitchen walls. There are lines of grout discolored in and around the sink, as well as cracked tiles. DeNova Homes and no issue with either the tile or grout. Some doublespeak by the Warranty Manager guaranteed to get the tile people to examine the tile and grout. Honestly, I expect no fix to occur on this $5200 upgraded back splash.

Discussion transitioned to the granite counter top; the seams, sharp edges and overall a poor finishing. This was an item that had been mentioned previously, as it had sliced my wife’s forearm open when we first moved in. The edges of granite are rough and poorly cut with two noticeable seams. In our previous house, we paid for new counter tops during our kitchen remodel and had a single seam that could barely be seen, cut at a 45 degree angle on our U-shaped counter, as well as a single piece around the sink basin. Not with DeNova Homes, possibly due to time and cost, our corner seam is set at a 90 degree angle with an unsightly seam directly in line with the faucet. Again, this from a company who has “a commitment to quality and integrity” and boasts “attention to detail.” This could not be further from the truth.

From the kitchen my wife discussed about the unfinished work that previously occurred, in which wall and baseboard trim or doors were sanded, but never repainted. This stemming from a very poor quality paint job through out the entire house; doors to trim, walls to ceilings. Coats of paint so thin, you could see through the paint and even areas that weren’t painted at all. I had never seen so many runs in paint, I guess that’s “quality and integrity” at it’s finest. No effort made at the time of painting to fix the initial problem, my 10 year old could have painted the trim more professionally!

outdoor_outletOutside it was a dirty, chipped concrete patio that was NEVER cleaned prior to moving in, with stucco and overspray, an unsightly mess. The outdoor kitchen ledge, which houses the gas grill isn’t level and the cutout and finish on the granite are poor, worse than the kitchen. In an attempt to cite DeNova Homes on a code violation I involved the City of Oakley in an electrical issue, which saw the use of a 3 outlet adapter used in a two outlet receptacle because of the BBQ, warmer and mini fridge. Three electrical items, only two outlets. Shocked to see their “standard” I felt it was a hazard and showed the city inspector. They said they would contact DeNova Homes. No idea if ours will be corrected or if they continue with the same “quality” practice in the houses now under construction.

Upstairs to the main event, the master bathroom tub surround. I stand by my comment, the master bathroom exemplifies the entire home. Even though their Executive Vice President, Lori Sanson disagrees, “hope you understand that does not speak to the overall quality of the home.” Yes, it does! You resolve this problem when it was initially reported, which was BEFORE escrow closed and I am not “banging DeNova on social media” as Brock Rose, Director of Operations implied. Since this problem continues to exist appearing DeNova Homes believes there is nothing wrong with the “standard” install I have very few avenues to warn other potential buyers of the lack of quality in DeNova Homes. May even require the services of Michael Finney of 7 On Your Side.

bathtub_03Everyone who has seen this tub surround agrees. The quality and craftsmanship is unacceptable, no one has sided with DeNova Homes on the bathtub surround. The install is poor. The quality is poor. The craftsmanship is non-existant! You can talk about “all homes are constructed with thousands of natural and manufactured materials by human hands,” but we am not looking for perfect. Never have been. We are after acceptable and the bathtub surround is NOT acceptable and doesn’t meet expectations. Place the blame on me, since I should have stopped the sale or not closed escrow until this problem was addressed. Yet we were assured time and time again through the construction process the problem would be take care of before we moved in, by the salesperson and construction superintendent. Surprisingly, it wasn’t.

bathtub_04The discussion with the Warranty Manager and Brock Rose, Director of Operations ended in the master bathroom. His demeanor, like that of Lori Sanson in her email response was arrogant and condescending. As my wife continued to call the quality of the master bathroom “shit” time after time, Mr. Rose spoke up, which included comments about how she was “banging DeNova on social media.” I quickly corrected him that going to social media was solely my responsibility. This followed by the insinuation I was “lying” as other new DeNova homeowners at Emerson Ranch were happy with their DeNova built home, except us. That could not be further from the truth. I’ve spoke to four homeowners next door and across the street who aren’t pleased with DeNova Homes.  This includes a family I met last Saturday, just moving in and the exterior paint scheme was not what they were sold. Continue to boast about “commitment to quality and integrity…attention to detail…values” in your mission statement. We have not experienced it, neither have some of our neighbors.

google_dontbuydenovaAfter these comments were made, I was done wasting time with these DeNova Homes representatives. As per our warrant agreement I will continue to file service requests for items requiring attention for the first (hopefully our last) year of ownership. However I will not deal with the unprofessional, arrogant, condescending people of DeNova Homes. I will leave my wife to schedule and confirm the appointments. It’s unfortunate, but many of these continuing issues could have been avoided, along with the #dontbuydenova and stance I have taken against this developer. There needs to be some level of quality expected when you purchase a new home. We were never looking for perfect, but we didn’t even get acceptable. For the rest of the story you can search The 6th Floor for ‘DeNova Homes‘ as the story begins on August 1, 2016. There are 76 images that have been made public on my Facebook page to warn potential buyers.