Emerson Ranch vs DeNova Homes

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve mentioned DeNova Homes and my social media campaign, #DONTBUYDENOVA on this website. While many problems continue to exist, the frontline fight is over. Contacted a few years ago by a few law firms, one decided to pursue, chasing down the developer on behalf of the frustrated homeowners. On August 16, 2019 I received an email from the law firm, Shinnick & Ryan, LLP, located in San Diego, California. This was to be the first homeowners meeting with Lucas Edwards from the law firm regarding steps going forward in a case against DeNova Homes.

Along with some literature received and time to air grievances from homeowners involved, I did bring to light my social media campaign, which received a rousing response from those in attendance. I had come prepared with hundreds of documents and images to share, along with my red and white campaign banner that reads: “BUYER BEWARE #DONTBUYDENOVA” that was created, more out of frustration then actual use. It might get some play when DeNova Homes opens their models of their upcoming development, Delaney Park, located next to the Emerson Ranch development.

Earlier this month, nearly five years after we made a bad decision to buy a DeNova Homes structure, we received a positive letter from Shinnick & Ryan, LLP. In the past the saga continued with random letters updating homeowners on the progress of the case. Prior to this early April email, the most promising letter I read stated that DeNova Homes would not pay to correct problems still remaining in their Emerson Ranch development, nor would they let their people inspect the homes for open claims.

I’ve spent the better part of two days, using the posts on this website, along with hundreds of emails between myself and DeNova Homes to recreate the buffoonery I’ve dealt with since purchasing this home. I know this post won’t please my realtor (now in Texas), as I will need to disclose all this to the next owner who buys this home, but right now that is of little consequence to me. It’s more important to continue to promote #DONTBUYDENOVA and keep others prospect homeowners from dropping their hard earned money on a home built by a company that doesn’t give a shit about “commitment to quality and integrity.” Rest assured their new development will be priced well above what I paid for our Emerson Ranch home. Sadly, the quality will be no better.

Pulling together documents, I am looking over a 6-page index listing 49 emails or chains between myself and the developer, which equates to a stack of paper almost two inches thick and well over 100 individual emails! I’ve also got over 250 images to print and include in a package, along with 18 posts from this website. I will be sending all this information to the law firm, at their request. This, along with other required documents related to the sale and maintenance of the home, they are asking for, as this class action lawsuit continues to move forward.

It still begs the question, “have you actually enjoyed your home?” Words echoed by my realtor after more complaining about the developer on the Internet. Sadly, no there has been no joy in home ownership. The evidence is overwhelming when it comes to the poor craftsmanship and attention to detail put into this home. I’ve have many people on social media comment on my cause, citing similar frustrations or swaying them away from a DeNova built home.

As I walk out the front door, I am reminded daily, as I step on the cracked entryway patio and look up and down the street. in my immediate area (8 homes), just one set of neighbors are original owners, everyone else has since departed. Looking to the south, down the end of the street, I know there are even more who have more recently moved into Emerson Ranch, probably happy with their purchase as a second (or third) owner. However, I will continue to fight the good fight and support Shinnick & Ryan in documentation they are requesting to keep this lawsuit moving forward.

Confidence is high there will be some resolution and while I am not doing this for the money, I do hope potential homeowners will read what my experience has been and seriously think about looking for another home than to give your money away to DeNova Homes.

If you want to play catchup, here are all the posts going back to January, 2016.

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!