Broward News

Homeowner With Chinese Drywall Confronts Builder

For many homeowners suffering with Chinese drywall, it's safe to say they wouldn't mind a chance to confront the builders who installed the defective walls in their homes. A woman from Coconut Creek did just that when she hurled tough questions at the CEO of Standard Pacific Homes on a conference call broadcast live to investors.

A bit of background: Lisset Sanchez-Schwartz bought a townhome in Julia Gardens in Coconut Creek from Standard Pacific in June 2007. She figured out in April that Chinese Drywall was responsible for her corroded AC coils and faucets. Sanchez-Schwartz also thinks it might be be to blame for her new asthmatic bronchitis, which sent her to the hospital last year.

After an inspector confirmed that Sanchez-Schwartz had Chinese drywall on April 14, she moved out the next day. She and her husband, Ian Schwartz, now live in a condo they used to rent out. They've contacted Standard Pacific many times about getting their house fixed, but the company has refused to work with them.

So she decided to confront the company's CEO.

The occasion was a conference call May 8 to discuss Standard Pacific's first-quarter earnings. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of investors and officials with brokerage houses called in to listen to the company's top brass talk about long-term projections and ask questions about profit margins. (Click here to listen to a recording of the call).

Sanchez-Schwartz comes on at a one hour and 20 minutes into the call. She began by asking Standard Pacific CEO Ken Campbell his opinion on Chinese drywall and how it will affect the company.

Campbell sounded stunned. "OK? Um. We. Um. We're looking into it." Campbell recovered a bit and claimed the company has taken a first step: identifying homeowners with Chinese drywall. "Uh, we're in the process of doing a review of all of our properties, uh, across the entire United States." Before he concluded, he pointed out that the company has insurance.

Sanchez-Schwartz hit him with a follow-up. "It seems from everything that we're hearing is that a lot of attorneys are getting involved," she said, sounding confident and not showing how nervous she actually was. "How do you expect to mediate homes that are affected?"

The question stunned Campbell again. "Um. Well? Yeah, the lawyers are circling, as you might expect, particularly given the media, um, the help from the media on the topic." Campbell goes back to the spiel about trying to identify affected homeowners and mentions that Standard Pacific also has attorneys who are trying to figure out who's going to pay.

Sanchez-Schwartz then revealed her interest: "I think I should disclose, just out of fairness, that I am a homeowner with the problem and I am trying to remediate directly with you and not involve a lawsuit. I still have not received any information back. I got on this call because I became very concerned about this issue."

This time, Campbell didn't hesitate to cut things off. "We really don't want to tie up hundreds of people's time on this topic." He suggested that Sanchez-Schwartz should call the company's general counsel, John Babel.

"I greatly appreciate that," Sanchez-Schwartz said. "Thank you so much." Then she hung up.

When Sanchez-Schwartz's attorney, Allison Grant, called Babel, Sanchez-Schwartz says she got the same runaround the company has been giving for months.

Now Sanchez-Schwartz is at a breaking point. Her mortgage company, Bank of America, had given her a three-month break from the mortgage while she tried to negotiate with Standard Pacific. That ends August 1, and Sanchez-Schwartz doesn't have a way to pay two mortgages on her salary as a marketing director for a software company. So she's considering walking away from her townhome.

"I have been through the ringer at this point," she says. "I feel like my life has been ruined."

At least she's got one thing: the satisfaction that she confronted the man responsible for her troubles.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton