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I’m already part of the Bank of America mortgage modification scam, and the hernia mesh recall debacle.  Go Me!!  I am now foreseeing a stucco class action lawsuit in my future.

For the record, I am not happy to be part of these.  Class action lawsuits come along because attorney’s learn of blatant fraud on the part of large companies.  Think Erin Brokovach.

To be part of a class action lawsuit means a few things:

  1. You’ve been a victim of knowing fraud.  The mesh placed in me is a great example.  This mesh was a “new & improved mesh” designed by Johnson & Johnson after their 1st mesh was recalled.  The problem is that there was little to no difference between the two.  Sure enough, within two years of introducing Physioderm it was recalled in European countries, where it is distributed by Ethicon – a recall initiated by Ethicon when they learned it was as bad as the original mesh.  In the US, J & J, instead of recalling it, quietly removed it from the market and “suggested” surgeons not use any they had on hand.  Sounds like fraud, right?
  2. You have suffered some type of injury.  With BoA it is a financial injury, with the hernia mesh a physical injury.
  3. The resolution of the lawsuit will take forever.  I anticipate never seeing resolution to either of these in my lifetime.
  4. You will always pay a much higher price than the attorney trying the case.  Any compensation you get will be minimal in relation to your injury.
  5. Once a class action lawsuit is filed, individuals may no longer sue on their own; they are automatically put into the class action suit.

Class action lawsuits are a slippery slope.  In many ways they are the only method consumers have to protect them.  In the Bank of America lawsuit, BoA has been defrauding mortgage owners for years, and we have no recourse.   We are told, thousands of us each year, that there is no one else we can go to for resolution, and that while BoA is “sorry”, there is nothing they can do but foreclosure or short sale.  Given the fact that thousands of consumers annually have tried to get relief, dating back to 2009, it is clear that BoA will not rectify this practice without the pressure of a class action lawsuit.

The downside is that lawyers make a lot of money.   Millions.  Consumers make much less, usually less than what is adequate to cover damages.  In addition, these lawsuits drag on forever, meaning many consumers won’t even live to see resolution.

So let’s talk Stucco.  If you have tried to sell or buy a house in recent years you are aware of the stucco issue.  Home inspectors, whenever faced with a stucco clad house, are covering their asses and recommending an invasive stucco inspection.  This is costly – anywhere from $500-$1,000.   If there is evidence of mold this should obviously get done.  But what about the situation like mine, in which there is no staining, and the hairline cracks are to be expected and easily rectified.   What role does the home inspector serve here?  Currently every home inspector, when faced with any stucco, automatically says “I can’t inspect that, you need to hire a stucco inspector”.  

If there was no way for the inspector to qualify this statement, it would be fine.  Unfortunately for the inspectors, there is a way to determine if the stucco might be a problem, and I feel confident that eventually there will be a class action lawsuit calling bullshit on this practice.

Here’s what I’ve learned.  There are 2 different types of stucco:  Traditional stucco is called hardcoat, synthetic stucco is called EIFS.  Traditional hard coat stucco is NOT A PROBLEM.  It never has been and, since it’s been used for over a hundred years, presumably never will be a problem.    It is actually one of the best materials to finish a building with.  It is strong, it allows the building to “breathe”, and it lasts forever , unless deliberately taken down.

The stucco that is an issue is synthetic stucco, or EIFS.  This material is not as strong as traditional stucco, as it contains no cement.  It is also installed differently than traditional stucco.  EIFS was developed in the 50’s as a quick way to patch walls.  Builders soon noticed that EIFS had a slight advantage over traditional hard coat in terms of insulation, so they started using it more.  When installed correctly it is fine.  The problem is that at some point (I think early 90’s) EIFS became the more popular material for homes and, when not installed properlyit traps moisture and leads to mold issues.

(If you’d like more detailed information about how each is installed, what it is made of, what creates problems, let me know – I’ve done my research.  Just like I did with Bank of America and Physioderm.  All subjects I never wanted to be well versed in.)

 

Here is why there will be a class action lawsuit against home inspectors.

 You can tell the difference between hard coat & EIFS.  Easily.  

All you need to do is press on the wall and if there is a give it is EIFS.  If it is hard as rock, it is hard coat.  Hard coat, because of it’s breathability, does not lead to mold issues.  EIFS, when installed correctly, also does not lead to mold.  There are definite clues that there might be a mold issue with EIFS, most notably discoloration and staining.

What this means is that when home inspectors make the blanket statement “you need an invasive stucco inspection” they are not doing their job and they are devaluing all stucco homes.  

My house happens to be hard coat stucco.  There is no staining or discoloration, and there are no gaps in the coverage.  It is clearly sound, and not something to be concerned about.  It was also build 25 years prior to the EIFS issue homes have today.  Yet today, the second inspector to come through my house recommended to the buyers that they perform this invasive testing.  Will this end the sale?  I don’t know yet.  It ended the 1st sale, so …….

Now you might be asking – what’s the damage?  The damage is actually huge.  In not differentiating the two types of stucco, home inspectors have created an environment where most buyers won’t even consider a stucco clad home.  This has driven prices down dramatically for these homes.

In my town there is a development right next to mine that was build in the mid 90’s, 25 years after my development.  It was built with EIFS which was incorrectly installed.  No one knew this at the time, and the homes were beautiful, so they were sold in the $600K range.  As the years went on and these homes were re-sold they were going for between $700 -$800K.  Until about 2 years ago.  Suddenly they started being sold for $525, some even lower.  Why?  Because of improperly installed EIFS.  All of these homes require substantial remediation to correct this issue.

I feel terrible for these homeowners, and hope they go after their builder for some financial relief, but what does that have to do with my home?  It should have nothing to do with my home.  My home was built long before the EIFS issues began, and it is clearly hard coat stucco.  

In suggesting that buyers splurge for the invasive inspection the inspector is essentially sounding the alarm, and lumping my house in with those with a real problem.

Now I have a real problem.  Not only has the value of my home decreased simply because it is in the vicinity of the newer development, now I have inspectors suggesting that it has the same problems as those homes.  & it is bullshit.  And I’m pissed. 

Home inspectors are very careful about their wording.  Why?  Because they need to cover their asses.  If they do not warn a buyer about a real potential issue the buyer can come back to them for remedies.  This actually happens, and the inspector, or inspection company is responsible for the damage they did not identify.

As far as I know there has yet to be a case for sellers, but it is coming.  It is coming because in covering their asses, inspectors are screwing those of us with real stucco.  And they should know better.  I, as a lay person, can walk through neighborhoods and tell you which homes are hard coat and which are EIFS.   Further, the ones that are EIFS, I can usually identify if there is a potential problem.  And I’m not a home inspector!  I’ve learned all this in only a few hours of study.  For Home Inspectors to ignore this obvious difference is simply wrong, and eventually some smart lawyer will make the case that this was done fraudulently, and a class action lawsuit will be born.

Oh, the subjects I’ve learned in less than a year.  What next?

 

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