Thursday, November 27, 2008

No thanks to Pulte


Thankful for some things, not for others

Bluffton Today
November 27, 2008
Carl Lehmann

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers. I hope you find many things, events and occasions for which you can say thanks.

As for me, first I say thanks for having survived another year of being cancer-free. My stage 4 colon cancer forced me into retirement in 2002, and thanks to some fabulous surgeons, five surgeries, radiation treatment and fantastic drugs, I survived against all odds. I also say thanks to my family who supported me throughout the ordeal of the first two years of treatment. Of course, they still stand by me, but treatment now is routine, just a checkup every six months.

I am not sure that we should say “thanks” to the letter from Pulte concerning stucco sent to all of us via our neighborhood representatives. I read it very carefully, because I thought that it might lay our concerns to rest. Unfortunately, the letter contains so many inaccuracies that it requires an answer that every resident in Sun City can read. First, a bit of background.

Some years ago Pulte/ Del Webb switched from siding on houses to stucco. Some homeowners noted cracks and other faults.

A law firm from Charleston got involved, hired engineers to inspect homes at no cost to the owners and when problems were found asked them to join a lawsuit.

The lawyers tried to get it certified as a class action lawsuit. The court denied that motion. In its order, the court stated that a class action lawsuit involving a few hundred owners is inappropriate because it might prevent other owners from suing Pulte for defects in trusses or structural components.

Pulte trumpeted that as a great victory. Of course, now they are faced with more than 500 separate legal actions. The first case went to arbitration as required by South Carolina law. The arbitrator recently settled that case by finding that the stucco was defective and ordered Pulte/ Del Webb to pay over $66,000 for the complete removal and reapplication of the stucco.

Hence the letter written by Jon Cherry, Pulte’s vice president in our area who, together with another three Pulte employees, makes up a majority on our board of directors.

Here are just some of the inaccurate and self-serving statements made by Mr. Cherry in his letter.

Cherry: The company has been diligently making any repairs necessary on homes throughout the community.

Fact: One of my neighbors purchased his home in 2003 and notified Pulte almost immediately of stucco problems. It is now 2008 and nothing has been done.

Cherry: We attempted to repair the stucco on the plaintiff/homeowner’s home more than a year ago. The plaintiff/ homeowner refused our offer.

Fact: That was two years after the owner contacted Pulte about the problem.

Cherry: Any monetary award is first applied to lawyers’ fees and their “expert” service fees.

Fact: The award order clearly states that Pulte must pay all legal fees in addition to the award to the homeowner.

Cherry: Plaintiff attorneys block any communications between Pulte/Del Webb and homeowners; essentially not allowing us to perform any routine warranty.

Fact: The only blocked communication pertains to the lawsuit. Routine warranty can continue.

The biggest insult to all the residents is the allegation by Cherry that “justice seems seldom the goal, greed too often the motive …” If Pulte/Del Webb would handle complaints in a responsible manner, no lawsuits would be necessary.

Carl Lehmann is a Sun City resident. You can reach him at

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