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Mobley reneges on offer to replace Chinese drywall

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 12:21 PM
TAMPA -

Danny Dekle insisted his home had toxic Chinese drywall. But builder Mobley Homes said tests showed the house was fine.

Last month, Mobley Homes agreed to retest the drywall in Dekle's home and 19 other homes in the Tampa area and agreed to replace drywall if sulfur levels were high.

"The consultant said as soon as I opened my garage door he could smell it," Dekle said.

But now that the results are coming in, the builder says it can't afford it.

Dekle received an email from Mobley that says:

"At this time we don't have the financial capability to do what all would need to be done to remediate the problem drywall," the email said. "In the meantime, however, we are beginning to build a fund for this cause."

Spokeswoman Sasha Goodman said the company is still evaluating the situation. She said it was another company that sold the bad drywall and it's not the builder's fault.

Thousands of homeowners in Florida have toxic drywall, imported during the housing boom.

The material emits a sulfur gas, which corrodes metal, smells like rotten eggs and makes homes worthless. While there has been no government link between the building product and health problems, homeowners say the drywall has made them sick.

Dekle and some of his neighbors in Tampa's Easton Park neighborhood bought homes from Mobley in late 2008 – after the drywall scandal hit the news. That's part of the reason they say they chose to buy a new home instead of one a few years older.

In Dekle's home, the consultant tested three samples of drywall looking for the toxic sulfur.

The consultant's report says anything over a 5 rating is questionable.

"In my master closet it's at 17, in my bedroom it's 14 and in my family room it's 8.3," Dekle said, reading from his drywall report.

He said Mobley Homes told him it was his decision whether to stay in the home or move out.

"I think that's unfair. I paid you for a product, and you should come make good on your end," Dekle said.

Tim Mobley of Mobley Homes said in a statement to the Tribune that 20 homeowners believe they have bad drywall. He said some are involved in a federal class-action suit.

"We are not going to treat one homeowner one way and another homeowner another way," the statement says. "We really cannot make a proposal to any of the homeowners until we understand the total economic impact from this issue."

Most of the defective drywall was used during the housing boom, from 2004 to 2007, although some homeowners have reported bad drywall installed years earlier or later.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported seeing some cases as late as 2009, although they were more common from 2006-2008.

Builders say it costs, on average, about $100,000 to replace the drywall in a typical home. The home has to be stripped to the studs and rebuilt from the inside. Some builders have chosen to replace the caustic drywall and some have done nothing.

Homeowners insurance typically doesn't cover the costs.

The federal government recommends replacing the drywall. Some homeowners have sued and won individual cases. Some joined class-action suits and won, but didn't get enough to fix their homes. Others are still fighting in court.

Last week, a major supplier of the drywall announced a proposed class-action settlement in a Louisiana federal court. Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, a Chinese affiliate of Germany's Knauf Gips KG, proposed cash settlements or payments to replace the drywall.

The agreement would be approved next year.

It's unclear whether homes in the Bay area are built with drywall from Knauf.


sbehnken@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7804 Twitter: TBORealtyCheck

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