Bill Stops Insurers from Dropping homes with Chinese Drywall

From BradentonHerald.com

A federal bill filed Tuesday would prohibit insurers from canceling or altering coverage of homes because they contain defective Chinese drywall, but experts said its chances of passage appear remote.

The proposed Drywall Victim Insurance Protection Act “will give homeowners peace of mind that they won’t lose their insurance while they repair homes affected by Chinese drywall,” said Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., the bill’s sponsor.

The four-page bill would make it illegal for insurers to cancel or not renew policies on single-family homes and condominium units based on the fact they contain or are suspected of containing drywall with certain characteristics. Those characteristics include drywall imported from or manufactured in China from 2004 to 2007 or have elevated levels of sulfur or strontium.

The bill also would prohibit insurers from changing premiums or terms of coverage because of the drywall, and allow homeowners whose polices are canceled or not renewed to sue their insurers.

Melancon’s bill is in response to reports that some insurers have or are considering dropping or not renewing homeowners insurance policies because of the drywall. Those insurers claimed the drywall falls under pollution or defective construction exclusions.

Among them was Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s public insurer of last resort, which told a Colorado couple that it was not renewing a policy on their Punta Gorda retirement home. The company later reversed its decision after it attracted widespread media coverage.

The couple’s Miami attorney applauded Melancon’s bill, but said it likely will face an uphill battle in Congress.

“Any kind of relief that victims of defective Chinese drywall can get will be a benefit,” David Durkee said. (But) I do think they are going to have some difficulties bringing this forward and passing it.”

That’s largely because states, not the federal government, regulate insurance, he said. There also could be constitutional issues with the federal government regulating private contracts involving individuals, Durkee said.

A spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry association, said the proposal “would have little or no effect” if passed for those reasons.

“Insurance is regulated at the state level, and any legislation that affects policyholders would have to originate from statehouses, not Congress,” Michael Barry said.

Despite that, Melancon’s bill drew praise from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who wrote 11 insurance companies to express outrage at cancellations.

“While homeowner insurance largely is governed by state laws, it doesn’t hurt to press wherever possible, and Nelson certainly supports Rep. Melancon’s effort,” spokesman Bryan Gulley wrote in an e-mail.

5 Bizarre Stories from CPSC Investigation Report

According to Popular Mechanics, there are some bizarre stories related to Chinese Drywall:


  1. Explosion of Hair Dryer – Homeowner Richard Kampf of Cape Coral, Florida, formerly worked for the EPA and has testified before a congressional committee about his drywall problems. “All we spend our life doing is fighting this,” Kampf said. “It’s difficult.”

    Recently, his wife’s 3-week-old hair-dryer “caught fire in her hand,” Kampf says. He suspects corrosion to the copper wiring of the outlet, behind walls made of Knauf Tianjin board, caused an electrical short that set the hot blower ablaze. For now, he says, “the CPSC confiscated it, and they’re taking it apart in a lab.” 




  2. Piano Strings Blackened – A 45-year-old man and his wife, living in a house built in 2006 in Perkinston, Mississippi, reported corrosion in, of all places, their piano and bathroom:

    “During the on-site visit, the complainant’s wife pointed out several instances of blackening or corrosion on visible metal surfaces throughout the house. She said that she had not noticed any rooms or areas of the house in which the corrosion problem seemed to be worse than others, however.


    The complainant’s wife said that the tuning pins on the baby grand piano in the living room should have been a bright brass color. However, as she pointed out, the pins have begun to show evidence of blackening and discoloration.

    In the guest bathroom, located under the stairs leading to the second story of the house, the complainant identified two instances of corrosion. First, she pointed out areas of discoloration on the bathroom faucet. In addition, she noted pitting and corrosion on the toilet paper caddy located in that bathroom.

    The complainant’s wife also identified the metal spigot underneath the sink in the kitchen as an area in which she had noticed evidence of corrosion. In addition, she pointed out areas of discoloration and corrosion on stainless steel knives that were stored in a drawer in the kitchen.”

  3. Appliances Break and Circuit Breakers Trip – This investigation concerns a 34-year-old male, his 32-year-old wife, and their 4-month-old daughter. They have been living in the affected house in Boynton Beach, Florida, since completing construction on it in November 2006.

    “Within the first year of living in the house, the complainant experienced several malfunctioning and having to be replaced. He has had the circuit boards on a television and laptop stop working. He has had the security company replace the alarm panel twice because it stopped working. The company technician could not explain why he was experiencing problems.

    The electrical panel in the refrigerator was replaced in the first 10 months of living in the home. Also in the first 10 months, he has had to replace the top portion of the oven that shows the temperature and other controls, twice. Each time because the top portion of the oven would overheat and cause the wood cabinet above it to start cracking. The erratic behavior of the oven caused concern to the complainant and his wife and they stopped using the oven.

    The air conditioning units on the first and second floor have been recharged with refrigerant on November 11, 2007, August 29, 2008, and the last time on March 14, 2009…each time at least three pounds of refrigerant were added and leaks in the evaporator coils were patched. The evaporator coils were never replaced during these service visits. The technician could not give an explanation for the problems the complainant was experiencing with the air conditioning units.

    An electrical receptacle in a guest bedroom started to arc and smoke and the builders had a service technician visit the home and replace the receptacle. On a consistent basis, the complainant experienced the following issues: circuit breakers tripping for no apparent reason and an unusual odor in the vicinity of a receptacle. He is not experiencing issues with flickering lights, sizzling and buzzing, and light switches or outlets that are warm or hot to the touch.

    The complainant has noticed blackening, corrosion and pitting on metal surfaces throughout the house. Within 10 months of living in the house the complainant informed the builder that there was blackening and pitting on metal fixtures such as the drains in the showers and sinks, shower heads, faucets, lighting fixtures, bathtub fixtures, and metal fixtures on shower doors. The builder replaced all of the metal fixtures and the blackening and pitting began to appear again. The issues with the smoking receptacle and the oven panel caused concern to the complainant of a possible fire hazard. He has also noticed corrosion on his wife’s jewelry, mirrors, and metal knobs on a table.”

  4. Strange Sicknesses – This report documents a young family’s experience in a Lake City, Florida, home built in 2006:

    “While the consumers were building the house themselves, the girls (8½-years and 6½-years-old) got colds. Two weeks later, the consumer got a cold. Her girls would come and help with the building of the house. The consumer noted that she had never had a cold as an adult.

    What they thought was a cold settled into their lungs and never went away. The consumer took her daughters to a specialist and they received treatment, but could never cure the problem. The girls were diagnosed with asthma, but the doctor thought it was allergy-induced asthma. Scratch tests were performed on the girls. The older daughter was tested for over 60 items and the younger daughter was tested for 45 items, but both tests came back negative. That’s when the doctor said that this was some type of allergy induced asthma, but the doctor did not know why or what caused it. None of the treatments worked and the girls could not be cured. They received antibiotics for sinus infections and they would work for a little while, but their symptoms would come right back.

    The consumer had numerous sinus infections. On two occasions, she quit breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital and received steroids.
    The consumer’s 6-year-old son developed a sinus infection in 2008. His infection keeps backing up into his ears and he has ear infections that have been occurring since September 2008. He will get treatment and the problem will start all over again.

    The husband’s symptoms developed in February 2009, and now he has the same problems as everyone in the home. He keeps going to the doctor and receiving treatment, but the problem will not go away.
    The middle daughter is currently repeating second grade. The consumer noted that this daughter was reading on a second grade level in kindergarten. This daughter’s doctor said that she is probably not getting enough rest, because she up all night getting breathing treatments and going to the bathroom.

    They have experienced problems with all of the copper in their home. The part that goes into the A/C keeps corroding, developing holes and all the refrigerant leaks out. They have a repair technician come out every six months, he charges the system, and the exact same thing happens again.

    They have had a couple of outlets and light switches that start crackling; about a week later, they quit working. When they are removed, they are filled with smoke and blackened inside. Their house smells like sulphur and their water taste and smells like sulphur and fumes. The consumer noted that they have a double filter on the water system in their home, but that does not address the problem.
    The consumer said that she has contacted FEMA requesting paperwork that might assist them with living somewhere else, but they need documentation from another agency or an authority before they can assist with relocating. The consumer can not move in with anyone, because there are too many of them.
    NOTE: The consumer and her family have to sleep in tents in their backyard to get out of the house sometimes, but this not safe for them.

  5. Family Pet Dies (Cocketiel flown the coop) – A 49-year-old woman, her 44-year-old husband, and their 12-year-old son experienced the following in a split-level home in Fort Myers, Florida:

    The complainant’s husband stated that their 14-year-old cockatiel died in January 2009. He said the average lifespan of a cockatiel is 20 years. He said when they moved into the house the bird started sneezing and throwing up. He said they took her to the vet where she was given antibiotics. They brought her home and thought she was fine. A few days later they went out, came back and found her dead inside her cage.

$5M Program to Help

Louisiana Recovery Authority came closer to approving a legislative mandate for Drywall Compensation Program. It’s waiting though on answers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.chinese drywall.jpg

Last Spring the Louisiana Legislature passed a bill putting $5 million into a fund that would help compensate homeowners who rebuilt their homes with defective Chinese Drywall after Hurricane Katrina.

“There just isn’t a federal protocol for how to do it,” LRA spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.

Part of the problem is that the LRA hasn’t yet figured out who qualifies for the program and how to verify if the applicant actually used the contaminated drywall.  They are looking to the CPSC for standards and forms.
The monies will be coming from the federally funded Community Development Block Grants which was created after Hurricane Katrina for rebuilding Louisiana’s infrastructure.  To use the Block Grants HUD would have to give their approval.
The Louisiana drywall program would be launched by the state “once a nationally recognized testing and remediation protocol is approved,” according to the recovery authority’s plan approved Wednesday. So, there’s no formal way to apply and no description on who is eligible
“There is no answer right now. There is no methodology,” LRA Executive Director Paul Rainwater told authority board members.
Rainwater recently traveled to Washington, D.C., where he and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and state Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, asked federal officials to answer questions regarding Defective Chinese Drywall.

Part of the problem is that the LRA hasn’t yet figured out who qualifies for the program and how to verify if the applicant actually used the contaminated drywall.  They are looking to the CPSC for standards and forms.

The monies will be coming from the federally funded Community Development Block Grants which was created after Hurricane Katrina for rebuilding Louisiana’s infrastructure.  To use the Block Grants HUD would have to give their approval.

The Louisiana drywall program would be launched by the state “once a nationally recognized testing and remediation protocol is approved,” according to the recovery authority’s plan approved Wednesday. So, there’s no formal way to apply and no description on who is eligible

“There is no answer right now. There is no methodology,” LRA Executive Director Paul Rainwater told authority board members.

Rainwater recently traveled to Washington, D.C., where he and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and state Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, asked federal officials to answer questions regarding Defective Chinese Drywall.

Senators ask FEMA for Help

Found on NEWSINFERNO.com
Senator Bill NelsonSenator Mary LandrieuSenator Mark Warner

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, received a letter from Senators Bill Nelson, D-Fl., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Jim Webb, D-Va., asking for rental assistance so victims of Chinese Drywall who can’t live in their home have shelter.

A response is expected by November 7

The letter says, “Families in our states are … watching their dream homes turn into nightmares,” the Senators wrote. “We believe it is important to marshal all appropriate Federal resources that may assist these families.”

FEMA normally provides such assistance in natural disasters but the Senators cite 2 cases where the agency provided help in non-natural disasters:

  • In 1980 Love Canal residence were relocated because of toxic waste dump. This case sparked the creation of the EPA’s federal Superfund.
  • In 1983, Dioxin contamination in Times Beach Montana forced families to relocate. Funds from the Superfund were transferred to help the residence.

The Senators represent the states hardest hit.  According to the CPSC, there were over 1,000 cases in Florida, 250 from Louisiana and 50 from Virginia.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate

Are US Companies to Blame?

Over at China Law Blog, Dan Harris, reports on Gary Rosen’s stance that American companies are to blame for this mess; because the importers and installers didn’t have the proper quality assurance methods in place to see if there were any problems with the drywall. In other words they didn’t test the new product and new manufacturer; even though many have done business with Knauf previously.

This brings to the forefront different points

  1. On who’s feet should responsibility lay? – The manufacturers, for making a faulty product? By the blog’s account, it is not illegal in their country. Should the importer be blamed for importing faulty products? Please don’t shoot the messenger. Maybe, the builder for building with a product from a company that provided faulty materials; even though most builders did business with Knauf and expected the same quality.  Remember Knauf is German, their subsidiary Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co is Chinese
  2. Who’s going to foot the bill of cleanup? – This is where paths diverge. Should the manufacturer pay? I don’t know of a high profile case (0r any) of a US company suing a foreign company in the US and collecting. Should the parent company pay? Should the State pay? Should the federal government pay? Should the homeowner pay? Should the insurance company pay? Should the builder pay?

Whoever pays, the payout will be a longtime coming.

Back to the original point. Are US companies to blame for using Defective Chinese Drywall? Given today’s international trade being so important in all the products we buy, we can’t expect them to test for every eventuality. When we buy American, often parts or processes of that product have originated other companies in other countries.  The only party privvy to knowing what was in the wallboard was Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co so they should take responsibility.

According to the New Orleans Business News the same drywall used here isn’t a problem in China. The theory as to why not has to do with our homes being more tightly built.

I don’t have the answers but I’d like to hear your suggestions.

Florida Government Chinese Drywall Sites

Here’s a list of Florida Government Property Appraiser’s Sites that discuss Chinese Drywall and what to do if you might think you have it

Miami-Dade:

http://www.miamidade.gov/pa/whats_new.asp

Over the past several months hundreds of Miami-Dade County residents have reported the presence of defective Chinese drywall in their homes.  These homeowners believe the values of their properties have been impacted by this problem.

Lee County

http://www.leepa.org/drywall/default.aspx

They have been collecting data for value adjustments

Broward County

http://www.bcpa.net/

The Property appraiser is using this guideline to appraise properties with Chinese Drywall.

Hillsborough County

http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/countyinfo/drywall/home.cfm

On Sept 22 the Tampa Bay Online site reported that the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office will be offering to halve the estimated value in the worst cases of evaluated homes with Chinese Drywall. The land value would be included int he reduction.

Martin County

http://www.pa.martin.fl.us/images/stories/forms/Defective-Chinese-Drywall-Claim.pdf

This is simply the form to complete to tell the county you may have Chinese Drywall.

Florida Department of Health

http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/indoor-air/inspections.html

6 Steps to Self-Assess whether you have signs that your home may be affected by drywall imported from China – An easy step-by-step guide to assess if you your home has imported wallboard.

Once you completed the guide then you can see if your home meets the Case definition of  ”A home with Chinese Drywall”. — Your home may meet the Case Definition if it was built after January 1, 2004 and you answered “Yes” to two or more of the questions in the guide. OR If the home was built before January 1, 2004, and you answered “Yes” to three or more of the questions, your home may still meet the Case Definition.

Here’s the Case Definition

Florida Department of Revenue

http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/property/RP/drywall.html

Listed here are the following

  • FAQ’s according to the Department
  • A timeline of what happened and when
  • A map showing the states and the reported number of cases (Florida ranks #1 with over 1000 cases)
  • The same type of map but this time showing the counties in Florida
  • The Case Definition
  • The Step-by-Step Guide

Please comment on other locations where people can find resources

Home Builders Identify 500+ Homes

From Nasdaq

Builder KB Home (KBH) has identified about 140 homes, primarily in Florida, affected by Chinese drywall, executives said in an earnings conference call Friday.

The Los Angeles-based builder estimates a repair cost of about $10 million, and it took a $6 million charge in the third quarter to increase its warranty liability.

Builders have been disclosing their exposure to allegedly defective drywall – also known as wallboard – imported from China during the housing boom. A growing number of homeowners complain that it generates sulfurous odors and corrosion. The complaints have led to continuing investigations by several government agencies. Most of the complaints have come from Florida.

Miami-based builder Lennar Corp. (LEN) previously confirmed that about 400 homes it built in Florida, mostly during its 2006 and 2007 fiscal years, have defective drywall. The company set aside $40 million for repairs. D.R. Horton Inc. (DHI), one of the nation’s largest builders, identified 75 homes in Florida and Louisiana with the potential problem. It set aside $6 million. Ryland Group Inc. (RYL) said it has between 50 and 60 homes in three Fort Myers, Fla., communities, with repair costs estimated at $4.5 million to $6 million, according to its latest quarterly financial filing.

KB Home, the nation’s fifth-largest builder by 2008 closings, said it continues to “review whether any additional homes may contain this drywall material.”

Earlier Friday, KB Home reported that, for the quarter ended Aug. 31, it lost $66 million, or 87 cents a share, compared with a prior-year loss of $144.7 million, or $1.87 a share.

Shares of KB Home recently were down nearly 9% at $16.92 in a broad market downturn.

Defective US Drywall

from Wink

“We’ve gone through seven air conditioners in seven years–What is it doing to our health ? My son Harrison has lived here half his life,” said Brenda Brincku.
Brincku’s home is torn to shreds and her world is upside down.

ZD YouTube FLV Player

“We’re about to go into foreclosure–our life savings is gone,” said Brincku.

When appliance after appliance stopped working a few years ago–the Brincku’s thought they were another family who had a home built with defective Chinese drywall.

“There’s nothing else it could be we had all the same symptoms.
We found out later there is no Chinese drywall–it’s all American–219 boards of National Gypsum,” she said.

National Gypsum is company based in the United States.

“This is in it’s infancy stages–if it happened to us there are others it happened too,” said George Brincku.

Scientists and other agency’s have taken samples from almost every room to figure out what’s causing the corrosion..

One scientist working with the Brincku’s thinks the boards may be built with recycled material.
He also thinks reclaimed water could play a part in the problem.
WINK news called National Gypsum and they said “The family does have problems in their home but it is not the wall boards.”

Senator Dave Aronberg also made a stop at the Brincku’s Alva home. He’s calling for a state task force and a special session dedicated to defective drywall.

CPSC Promises Quick Investigation

Under fire for the pace of her agency’s investigation, the nation’s top consumer safety official is promising to move swiftly to probe a flood of complaints about suspect drywall imported from China.

Homeowners, mostly in the Southeast, say the drywall is making them sick and corroding wiring throughout their homes. Lawmakers from Florida, Louisiana and elsewhere have pressed Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum for answers about the safety of the drywall.

Tenenbaum, who took over the agency in June, told lawmakers the investigation is “extremely complex and that there probably will not be a quick fix,” but she pledged to get to the bottom of the matter.

The release of results from CPSC testing of homes in southern states has been delayed several times and is still weeks away.

Homeowners blame the drywall for a “rotten egg” smell in their homes, health woes such as itchy eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, persistent coughing and bloody noses as well as corrosion of electrical wiring and home appliances.

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., one of a handful of lawmakers who met with Tenenbaum on Wednesday, said he was satisfied that the CPSC chief understands the issue’s importance to affected residents.

“If we get these results and they’re valid, and they are then part of a long-term action plan to bring relief to homeowners, then I believe we will have accomplished something very important,” Wexler said in an interview.

This summer, CPSC promised to release in September the initial results from indoor air testing of 50 homes, but that deadline was then pushed to October. This week, the agency further delayed the release to early November.

In a terse letter to Tenenbaum on Tuesday, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., complained that the agency is moving too slowly.

“This is not acceptable,” Warner wrote. “My constituents have had their lives turned upside down by Chinese drywall: Most have moved out of their homes and several are facing the prospect of having to foreclose on their homes.”

Since late last year, the agency has received more than 1,300 complaints from residents in 26 states and the District of Columbia, with the majority from Florida and Louisiana. The drywall was imported primarily between 2004 and 2008 when home construction was booming and supplies tight. The plasterboard from China was also used in homes rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.

The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted tests on a tiny sampling of Chinese-made drywall. It found sulfur and two organic compounds associated with acrylic paint — which were not found in the U.S.-manufactured samples that were tested.

The report did not draw any conclusions about health risks or whether the drywall could be damaging wiring in homes.

The EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with CPSC, which is leading the investigation.

Senators hold Town Hall meeting on Chinese Drywall

From WWLTV.com

Chinese Drywall in Louisana

Video: Watch the story

A colossal crowd unsuccessfully tried to squeeze inside of the Mandeville City Council chambers, eager to get answers on what to do about their contaminated Chinese drywall.

Many, however, walked out of the meeting hopeful, while the drywall manufacturers, sellers and distributors continue to play the blame game.

“I want your e-mails. I want your contact information,” Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, told the audience.

It was a massive mobilization in the wake of an unforeseen disaster.

“I have two small children at home,” said Slidell man Jaime Green. “It’s just very scary.”

Hundreds packed Mandeville City Hall, having only standing room in the town hall meeting.

“I knew it was going to be crowded,” said one Mandeville resident. “But I didn’t think it was going to be this crowded.”

As the meeting went on, more residents waited outside for an unplanned second meeting afterwards that would accommodate the overflow.

“How do we fix the problem? Who’s going to pay to fix the house?” asked Mandeville resident Charlene Hernandez. “Should we move out? We have two small children, what’s in their best interest?”

At the helm of the info session was Quinn, whose previous legislation aimed at making it easier for drywall victims to recoup their damages, died on the senate floor.  It would have allowed homeowners to collect attorneys fees plus 100 percent of the money needed to replace the drywall from the manufacturer, distributor or seller.

“The legislators in Baton Rouge…literally laughed me out of the capitol and said this is not a problem,” said Quinn.

The senator’s words and efforts found traction Wednesday night amid an audience that has run out of options.

When Quinn asked “how many in this room have received denial letters from insurers,” nearly everyone in the council chambers raised their hands.  When she then asked “has anyone had any coverage from their insurer,” not a single hand was raised.

A Florida attorney, well versed on the issue, urged those affected to file complaints with the federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“There’s probably 40,000 [contaminated drywall cases] in the country, but we only have 1,100 filed,” said Jeremy Alters.  “So if you want to start seeing governmental action at the federal level, you have to start reporting these claims.”

A health expert later spoke of the potential effects from the drywall.

“These gases can be neurotoxic in certain concentrations,” said Microbiologist Dr. Mark Rigler. “They can cause dizziness, they can cause headaches, some of them can cause more than that.”

As for the good news, he added that tests have so far found relatively low traces of those components in affected homes.

It’s little consolation for frustrated and tired homeowners who say they no longer have the money or the patience to go on.

“You go from a position to finally getting Katrina behind you, to having to get another mortgage and find a place to rent,” said Bill Green of Slidell. “Our whole world has been turned upside down in a matter of two months.”

Dansette