After new homes flood, residents question if builder or Mother Nature is to blame
Jan 31, 2023, 11:21 PM
LEHI, Utah — New Year’s Day proved not to be a great start to the year for Kayla Holman.
“We woke up to water coming in through two windows,” Holman said. “The water built up in the window well so high that the windows just weren’t holding the water back.”
Holman felt the issue was a construction flaw that allowed water to pour through cracks in her window wells and into her basement.
The damage cost her $1,700 to clean up, and she expects to spend another $2,000 to repair the damage.
Holman moved into the house more than a year ago after building it with Ivory Homes.
“We have submitted warranty claims through Ivory’s website, and we have not heard back from their warranty department to this point,” Holman said.
A few doors down, Ben Cannon still had the sandbags in place after suffering the exact same issue: water coming through the basement windows destroyed the basement he had finished just six weeks prior.
“We just barely finished it,” Cannon lamented, “so I’m absolutely devastated. At the end of the day, I’ve just spent all the money I had and savings to get to this point. I don’t have money to fix all this.”
Cannon, Holman, and several others in the Holbrook Farms community said they reached out to Ivory Homes, expecting some help with repairing the damages and potential defects to their brand-new homes.
They say they were told it wasn’t a building issue, or a neighborhood drainage issue, but a landscaping issue.
The homeowners disagree.
“The source of the leaking, which is these windows, is under a giant concrete pad that the builder put in for me,” said Cannon, who showed the ground under the pad had also settled.
“The fact that five out of six homes on our street flooded, I don’t think that’s a landscaper problem,” Holman said.
When the KSL Investigators reached out to Ivory Homes, we were told the same thing as the homeowners. In an email statement, their spokesperson wrote, “in most cases, flooding and standing water is frequently caused by landscaping after closing that changes the pre-set drainage of a home and lot. We are encouraging homeowners who had post-closing landscaping, to also reach out to their landscaping contractor directly.”
The spokesperson added the company is “committed to upholding the standards outlined in the Ivory Homes Limited Warranty.”
Ivory Homes told us “…this will be our only comment on the story.”
KSL Investigators took a deeper look at the limited warranty and found it indeed limiting when it comes to flooding.
For example, Ivory Homes lists they are responsible for the home’s grading, making sure water flows away from the house.
The Holbrook Farms HOA, which is still under leadership of Ivory Homes, requires landscaping to be installed within a year after closing. If Ivory decides that landscaping changed the surface water runoff patterns, the homeowner is not covered.
“It’s Ivory’s get-out-of-jail-free card,” Holman said. “They can do whatever they want. Even if it says it’s covered in the warranty, it’s up to their discretion.”
Around these homes, there are areas where the earth next to the home seemed to be compacting, changing the grade.
Ivory’s warranty says the “homeowner is responsible for monitoring settlement,” and that “ground settlement of up to 12 inches is common.”
Kyle Rollins, a professor of engineering at Brigham Young University, disagreed.
“Engineers typically design for settlement of maybe an inch,” Rollins explained.
Much more settlement than that, said Rollins, can be a recipe for disaster – one that will take more than individual homeowners fixing their own properties.
“Drainage systems can be remarkably effective, but if the whole area is having problems, then just dealing with your particular lot is not likely to solve the problem,” he said. “It probably needs to be a coordinated effort among the city developers and landowners to take care of the problem.”
As for Holman and Cannon, they await final word from Ivory on whether the builder will help fix the issues causing the water to get inside their homes. They’re not hopeful, as both homes fall outside of the one-year limited warranty period. “I’m trusting that sign that says they’re the number one builder,” he said. “I’m trusting them to do a good job, and that trust is now completely violated.”
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