Alicia and West Dixon bought their first newly built home from DR Horton in 2014 because it was in the school district they wanted and they liked the layout of the home.
Now, eight years later, they feel trapped in their Youngsville, Louisiana home, which they say has toxic mold due to faulty construction that the builder failed to properly fix for the home’s warranty period.
“We’re still living in the house right now,” Alicia Dixon said in an interview Thursday. “We can’t afford to move and we don’t have any family in the area.
“You’re basically a prisoner in your own house,” added her husband, West Dixon.
The Dixons have become the face of what lawyers hope will become a class action lawsuit against DR Horton and one of his contractors.
Ten South Louisiana attorneys this week sued DR Horton and Bell Mechanical Services in state court on behalf of the Dixons and thousands of other owners in Louisiana. The attorneys, who filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, asked a judge to decide whether the case could proceed as a class action.
“Based on our experts’ investigation, some DR Horton-designed homes are prone to leaks, high indoor humidity levels and mold growth,” the attorneys said in a statement Thursday. “We anticipate that thousands of homes across Louisiana and the South will experience these issues.”
The motion was filed by Lafayette attorneys Lance Beal, Alan Haney and Yul Lorio; Baton Rouge attorneys Lewis Unglesby, Lance Unglesby, Jordan Bollinger, Adrian Simm Jr. and Jamie Gontareck; and Denham Springs attorneys Calvin Fayard Jr. and D. Blayne Honeycutt.
Together, they allege that homes built by DR Horton after 2012 were not built to withstand “normal and typical Louisiana weather conditions.”
DR Horton and contractor Bell Mechanical Services allegedly ‘conspired to intentionally mislead’ the Dixons and other homebuyers into a ‘pattern of fraud and racketeering’ when installing and repairing the systems of HVAC in new homes, the attorneys said.
The lawsuit alleges that the Dixon’s home was built with poor attic ventilation and an improper air conditioning system that created a negative pressure environment in the home, which sucks warm, humid air inside.
When the Dixons brought their concerns to DR Hortons during the warranty period, Bell Mechanical often did not resolve the issues until months after warranty claims were submitted, according to the lawsuit.
Repairs and fixes to known design flaws were dragged out “to cover up problems and flaws in the home with quick fixes, including installing dehumidifiers in petitioners’ homes,” the lawsuit says. Homeowners were required by the terms of the home’s warranty to only use Bell Mechanical to service their HVAC system in the event of a problem.
The lawsuit says Leslie Gulliken, DR Horton’s city manager for the western Louisiana division, said in a taped conversation that the construction company meets federal building codes that may not be “designed for southern homes.” of Louisiana”.
“We are building under federal warrant code and we are governed by federal law,” Gulliken said, according to the lawsuit. “We are integrating this code and this code was not designed for very wet markets.”
The Dixons and others paid for inspections and repairs, lost the value of their home, lost the use and enjoyment of their home, paid more for electricity, experienced health and expenses and suffered inconvenience and mental anguish as a result of the actions of DR Horton and Bell Mechanical, the lawsuit says.
Attempts to reach a spokesperson at DR Horton’s office in Baton Rouge and Bell Mechanical’s office in Baton Rouge on Friday were unsuccessful.
Beal is also representing the owners in two similar cases currently in the Lafayette Parish court system. In a phone interview Thursday, Beal said he realized the scale of the problem as his team worked on those cases.
“My firm started with the initial cases, and we worked and continued to investigate and dig deeper and deeper into the issues,” Beal said. “Once you step into suits that big, the burden becomes heavy. This is why we wanted to file the class action.
The Dixons, who have four children ages 9 to 18, recently refinanced their $252,000 home in Youngsville’s Sugar Ridge neighborhood to take advantage of a lower interest rate. They have 14 years left on their mortgage.
Although the Dixons say they raised many concerns during the warranty period, they didn’t realize how serious the problems were until a few months ago when they had the house inspected for mold on the recommendation from neighbors with similarly designed homes.
“It turned out much worse than we imagined,” West Dixon said. “We’ve only been in the house for eight or nine years. It was simply unfathomable how bad it could be.
Alicia Dixon, who works as a hospital nurse, attributes some health issues to the condition of the home. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years ago and suffers from a host of symptoms ranging from brain fog and insomnia to anxiety and depression.
Her symptoms sometimes became so debilitating that she had to miss work. She said her 16-year-old daughter, who is allergic to mould, has also had allergy shots and takes medicine twice a day to relieve her symptoms.
In addition to the Dixons, the lawyers say the plaintiffs in the case include those who bought a new home built and sold by DR Horton between January 1, 2013 and today who experienced mold or mildew issues and damage to their homes. .
“We hope this will give people who were a little helpless like us the courage to speak up,” West Dixon said.
“The reason we’re doing this is we never want anyone else to have to deal with the things that we’ve been dealing with,” Alicia Dixon added.
Days before the Dixons’ lawsuit was filed, another Lafayette Parish resident raised concerns about her DR Horton home currently under construction in a northern Lafayette neighborhood.
Nureaka Ross said in a Facebook video that she has seen workers nailing shingles directly to plywood and only using cardboard-like material instead of plywood behind a brick-and-mortar wall outside a house. She drove through the construction site with an independent contractor, who explained why these and other actions shown in the video would have negative consequences on the road, especially during a hurricane.
“It breaks my heart because I was thrilled to be in a new home,” Ross said. “And it’s not worth it, especially knowing that the outside wall is literally just cardboard. There are holes everywhere, literally, in addition to the roof with shingles directly over the plywood.
Ross said she plans to terminate her contract with the homebuilder and posted the video on Facebook so other homebuyers know what to look for.
The video, which was recorded live on March 4, has been shared over 5,000 times.
“I was one of those, I thought I had a nice new house from DR Horton, newly built, and unfortunately I don’t,” Ross said. “I just have the privilege of seeing it under construction and not buying it later.”
Beal said homeowners in other Southern states have sued DR Horton over similar issues.
A a lawsuit was recently filed in Alabama against Dr Horton for “critical errors” in homes built in the mobile zone between 2015 and 2021 that left homes at risk of “catastrophic failure”.
In 2016, a federal bankruptcy judge in Florida ruled that DR Horton engaged in deceptive practices that forced the bankruptcy of a Miami homeowners association.
“It’s something that affects hard-working, middle-class Louisianans,” Beal said. “A home is one of the biggest and most expensive investments anyone makes, and when you see a community of problems, we had to do something about it.”
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