Broward News

Homeowner Says Builder Screwed Him After Promising to Fix His Chinese Drywall

When Ira Goldstein found out his house in Delray Beach was made with

defective Chinese drywall, he did the first thing most people would do: He called the home's builder. And unlike most of those calls, this builder actually offered to help Goldstein.

But his builder, Centerline Homes, did nothing short of use Goldstein, even taking a chunk out of his wall for "testing." Then Centerline ignored him.

"They used me to death," Goldstein told me recently. "It's unbelievable."

It began in the spring of 2008, when Goldstein first learned that his home was built in 2001 using drywall from China. The wallboard, found in as many as 100,000 homes nationwide, emits gasses that corrode wiring and, some claim, is to blame for respiratory problems.

When Goldstein called Centerline, he got the company's general counsel, Jeff Kronengold. "I want to work with you," Goldstein recalls the attorney telling him. "Yes, I know you might have a problem, but we're willing to do what's necessary."

Goldstein says Kronengold asked if it would be OK to send a worker out with a borescope, which would cut into his wall and take a sample. "You can do anything you want," Goldstein told him.

So Kronengold came out with a woman from an environmental testing company. She took a chunk of attic wallboard that carries the label "made in China." Then she used the borescope to cut a 3/4-inch hole in his living room.

"Don't worry," Goldstein recalls Kronengold telling him. "I'll send somebody out to fix your wall."

Afterward, though, Centerline stopped returning Goldstein's calls. The hole in his wall sat unfixed for a month or so before Goldstein decided to throw some spackle in it himself.

It took him a little while to realize he had been used. The company simply wanted to run its own tests in preparation for lawsuits sure to follow, Goldstein figures.

I reached Kronengold on his Broward County cell phone number. "We're not commenting on Chinese drywall," he said when asked about Goldstein's story.

When I noted to Kronengold that Goldstein's story makes him look like a liar, he said: "You don't know the full story of what's going on." But he refused to elaborate.

Now Goldstein's not sure what to do with his house. With the Chinese drywall, it's unlikely he'll recoup even the $176,000 he paid for the home in the Vizcaya development in February 2002. He's an out-of-work purchasing manager, so it's not like he has the money to fix it himself.

"To tell you the truth, I'm at a loss at what's next for me," Goldstein says. "Minimally, I'm hoping to sell it for what I paid for it. And then I'm going to get the hell out of town brown."