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!