Billy and Stacy Peek say toxic Chinese drywall drove them from their $2 million dream home, but their builder, Devonshire Properties Inc., ignores their pleas for help.
Devonshire officials say the Peeks are making the whole thing up.
Now, the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office is lending credence to the Peeks' side of the story: Their 7,000 square foot Davis Islands house, according to the office, has no value.
"I don't think anybody would buy … just the structure," said Warren Weathers, chief deputy at the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office. "I think it's worth zero."
The appraiser's office has a team of four who look at homeowners' professional inspections and follow up with their own in-house review. If they think a house has bad drywall, the county can grant a break on the property taxes.
So far, Weathers said, 800 homeowners in Hillsborough County have received an exemption for Chinese drywall. The Peek's house is one of them.
That means that instead of $20,000 in taxes without the drywall problem, the county collects just $4,500 for the land only.
Weathers points to photos of corrosion on air conditioning coils and fixtures in the home.
"In a product that's only a year or two old, you're not going to see that for a long, long time," Weathers said. "For that to rust out that quickly, to me is unusual – along with wiring."
Devonshire officials maintain that the Peeks are exaggerating.
No one from the company would comment for this story, but the company's attorney, Gary Gibbons, gave this statement earlier in the week week:
"Our tests reflected the drywall is not off-gassing. There's no corrosion on the components of the home."
A woman at the company's south Tampa office would not identify herself but said she had a report in her hand showing the drywall in the Peek home is fine. She would not share the report.
The drywall was imported during the housing boom when builders ran out of material from other sources. Some builders have offered to replace drywall for customers, others have not, and some homeowners have sued builders and manufactures.
The Peeks have joined a nationwide lawsuit, which names Devonshire and other builders and manufacturers.
A federal judge gave preliminary approval to a major settlement in one of the cases earlier this month.
One of the largest manufactures of Chinese drywall imported into the U.S. proposed settling a lawsuit and replacing drywall.
The Peeks' drywall was manufactured by another company.