Hoy Cooke bought his home in Jennings after retiring, downsizing from a larger space.
But the house, built by D.R. Horton, a national home construction company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a "debacle," he said Monday. The humidity levels in his house sit at about 73%, some of the walls are crooked, none of the doors shut properly and his front yard has drainage issues, Cooke said.
Cooke is one of many people who have complained about the workmanship by D.R. Horton and its subcontractors.
Among other issues, homes built by D.R. Horton are "defective" in the way they're designed to accommodate the humidity in south Louisiana, alleged Baton Rouge-based attorney Lance Unglesby during a news conference Monday.
"D.R. Horton residents have complained that their homes are humid, they don't smell good, they smell like mildew and they just don't feel comfortable," Unglesby said. "D.R. Horton, an out-of-state home builder, has failed in the way that they build their homes."
Two individual lawsuits have been filed against D.R. Horton in Lafayette Parish and a lawsuit has been filed with multiple plaintiffs in East Baton Rouge Parish. The plaintiffs have asked a judge to classify that complaint as a class-action lawsuit against D.R. Horton.
The lawsuits are being represented by Unglesby and Lafayette attorneys Lance Beal, Alan Haney and Yul B. Lurio.
A D.R. Horton spokesperson, Jessica Hansen, said foundations and structures are designed by professional engineers based on site-specific conditions, building materials are selected based on performance and sustainability.
Air conditioning systems are designed in accordance with The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers standards and local building codes, Hansen said. In addition to local inspections, third-party inspectors are employed throughout the process to supplement quality control.
"The health and safety of our homeowners is a top priority, and D.R. Horton is committed to superior customer service and building quality homes and neighborhoods throughout Louisiana and across the United States," Hansen said in an email.
She added that D.R. Horton homes come with "a robust warranty that exceeds the duration required by the Louisiana New Home Warranty Act.
Unglesby said the law firms hired experts to inspect more than 50 homes in Lake Charles, Jennings, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Slidell.
"In every single one of those neighborhoods, the home has a design problem," Unglesby said.
Unglesby said the hired experts found the homes they inspected didn't have proper ventilation in the attics causing humidity to build up in the house.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers recommends the relative humidity be maintained below 65% to reduce the chances of conditions that would lead to microbial growth.
Some homes inspected by experts hired by the law firms found homes with 70-80% humidity.
"I don't think any of us need to be experts to know that 80% is unacceptable," he said. "Nobody should be forced to live in a home at 80% humidity."
The high humidity levels caused mold growth in some homes, including on door frames, air conditioning vents, shoes and books, Unglesby said.
In one of the Lafayette Parish lawsuits, the plaintiff claimed a D.R. Horton representative told the homeowner that D.R. Horton builds to the federal mandate code but that code doesn't accommodate for south Louisiana's humidity.
"That code was not designed for a very humid market," the lawsuit claims the representative said. "We're doing what we're supposed to do by law, but it's not really designed for houses in south Louisiana."
D.R. Horton largely denied the allegations in that lawsuit and claimed the homeowners were legally required to go through an arbitration process before being able to sue. Unglesby argued Monday that D.R. Horton hides behind the arbitration clause to keep its issues from being public.
"Although D.R. Horton denies the allegations in these lawsuits, we do take them seriously. We take pride in the homes we sell and are not trying to 'hide behind' an arbitration clause as alleged," Hansen said in an email.
"The arbitration clause is prominently featured in our contracts and is common in home purchase contracts. Arbitration has generally been strongly favored in Louisiana because it is typically faster and cheaper than court litigation that often can go on for years, and arbitration is far more likely to deliver just and prompt results for all involved."
The homeowners Unglesby and the other attorneys are working with said they filed claims with D.R. Horton, telling the company of the problems. Some of them, like Cooke, have had the company and its contractors come out to their house nearly two dozen times to fix problems to no avail.
Unglesby challenged D.R. Horton on Monday to dispute the attorneys' claims about the defects in their clients' homes.
"D.R. Horton needs to come out of the shadows. They need to stop hiding behind an arbitration clause. They need to stop deceiving their customers and answer these questions," Unglesby said. "We're in for one of the hottest summers we've ever had. I've got a lot of clients who are extraordinarily upset right now."
"D.R. Horton hasn't been transparent," he added. "But D.R. Horton has too many homes in Louisiana to continue to get away with this."
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: DR Horton homes not built for Louisiana humidity, lawyers claim