Homeowners claim shoddy work

Eagle Ridge homeowner Greg Yancey claims the construction on his

For Eagle Ridge homeowner Greg Yancey, there’s no such thing as “home sweet home.”

And he’s not alone.

Yancey is just one of roughly 50 Gilroy homeowners who have signed on to a contentious lawsuit against Shapell Industries, Inc., a homebuilder responsible for many high-end houses in the Garlic Capital’s Eagle Ridge subdivision that’s no stranger to complaints.

The lawsuit alleges shoddy construction: poor insulation, subpar roofing and expanding walls brought on by water leaking into the bellies of the homes to the tune of more than $2 million total damages for the homes, according to the lawsuit, which was filed about two years ago with the Santa Clara County Superior Court. The complaint also claims violation of state building standards, breach of warranty, breach of contract and negligence.

“It just doesn’t feel like home,” said Yancey, who’s not married and takes care of his 60-year-old sister, Michelle, who is mentally disabled. “It’s been a nightmare, and it’s not over yet.”

He said the defects make him regret buying the two-story, 2,225-square-foot home, which he says is worth about half of the $700,000 price tag it carried when he bought it in 2007. He can’t walk away, but he can’t get comfortable either.

“I just wish I had known about this years ago,” Yancey said.

Multiple websites are dedicated to blasting Shapell’s construction, including ShameOnShapell.com and ShapellHomesSucks.com. The sites provide testimonials and photos from Shapell homeowners in other cities who say they’re unhappy with leaky roofs and other frustrating defects. ShameOnShapell.com even lists cell phone numbers for several Shapell officials and features angry letters written by customers.

Thomas Ingram, who serves as general counsel for Shapell, says the company is “very aware” of the Gilroy case, which is still in a pre-trial phase. He said Shapell denies “all of the allegations in the complaint.”

“Shapell has been around 50-plus years, and we stand by our homes,” he said.

Ingram said Shapell has reached out to homeowners listed in the Gilroy lawsuit to make repairs, though he couldn’t say for certain how many of the homes have received repairs.

“For those who communicate with us, we make repairs,” he said. “I know we’ve tried to contact every homeowner on that complaint on multiple occasions.”

Ingram had no other comments related to the lawsuit. The Dispatch contacted employees at Shapell’s Eagle Ridge and Milpitas offices for additional comments, however, all questions were referred back to Ingram at the Beverly Hills office.

Thanks to Shapell’s response following the suit, not everyone listed on the original complaint remains angry at Shapell -or even part of the battle.

Wilson Haddow says he pulled out of the suit last summer after workers visited his home and fixed a misaligned rain gutter just weeks after he joined the complaint against Shapell, handled by Santa Monica law firm Milstein Adelman, L.L.P., who could not be reached for comment as of press time, but has advertised in a flier that more than 110 homeowners have at least reported defects.

“They (Shapell) said they would fix it, they did. Then they said, ‘Are you happy now?’ And I said yes.” Haddow said. “I was quite happy after that. I had no further complaints.”

Haddow added, “I wasn’t worried about being part of the suit. We’re actually real happy with the house.”

Frank Lowry, who pulled out of the suit about a year ago, reported a similar experience.

“They came in within two weeks and fixed everything,” he said, which included minor repairs to doors and an overhaul of the home’s heating ducts.

Lowry said he joined the lawsuit about a year-and-a-half ago after a winter without proper heating was too much to bear. Soon after he added his name to the lawsuit, the repairs were made, he said.

“We didn’t really complain, but at one point we said, ‘This was wrong,'” Lowry said.

It’s been anything but a quick fix for Yancey, however.

Construction workers have been a common sight for him, especially after recent rains seeped into his walls, causing some to bow out in an ugly, discolored fashion.

The misshapen walls caused valuable artwork to fall, damaging it, Yancey said. Crews also had to cut into one of his kitchen walls to find the source of the leak, leaving a cavernous eyesore for months, Yancey said.

The hole was finally patched up about a week ago, he said, but water and air still make their way through gaps where the carpet meets the wall in the upstairs master bedroom.

Yancey’s balcony overlooks the front porch, though the abutment is so poorly built he says visitors have to keep their umbrellas open when knocking on his front door in rainy conditions.

“I think my house is possessed,” Yancey said. “I don’t feel like it’s a home anymore. It doesn’t feel like I thought it would be.”

Yancey, who works as a self-employed private investigator, says he broke one of his cardinal rules before purchasing his home.

“Shame on Shapell, but in a way, shame on me. I should have done my homework,” he said.

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