Chinese drywall – the good, the bad, the ugly
The good, the bad and the ugly are all aspects of the Chinese drywall controversy that the state of Florida is heavily involved in. The good is that some positive relief for homeowners may be available. The bad is, as usual, the insurance companies, and the ugly is what Chinese drywall is doing to homes.
The good thing for homeowners who have been victimized by builders who used Chinese drywall in either new homes or home renovations is the possibility of funding from the government. Florida Senator Bill Nelson is asking Florida lawmakers to earmark any leftover federal funds to help these homeowners.
He has asked the Florida House and Senate to set aside funds similar to a program adopted in Louisiana to help affected homeowners. In addition, he has asked the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate the problem as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine if homeowners would qualify for federal disaster funds.
Manatee County is also attempting to help homeowners with Chinese drywall though a property tax break. Homeowners who have Chinese drywall in their homes can apply for up to a 50 percent reduction in the assessed value of their homes. To qualify, start by calling the property appraiser’s office at 941-748-8208.
You will be asked to submit documentation that your home contains Chinese drywall in the form of a report from a licensed inspector or verification from the builder confirming the presence of the drywall. After review by the property appraiser’s office, homeowners will be advised if their home qualifies for the tax reduction. The deduction will be applied to either their 2009 or 2010 tax bill based on when the taxes were paid.
The bad guys are not only the Chinese who manufactured the defective drywall, but also Florida insurance companies who may be compliant in the drywall debacle. Citizens Insurance, the insurance of last resort in Florida and the largest in the state, is not only refusing to pay claims for damage to property but is also dropping policyholders after a claim is made. Citizens’ position is that Chinese drywall is excluded from its policies similar to pollution and faulty or inadequate builder defects or workmanship.
Representatives point out that if you purchased a defective automobile you wouldn’t expect your insurance company to make the repairs. In addition, policyholders who recently filed claims for damage linked to Chinese drywall may be notified that their policies will not be renewed if the damage isn’t repaired within six months of the date of notice. Other Florida insurance companies are also following Citizens' lead by not reimbursing claims and issuing non-renewal notices.
The ugly part of Chinese drywall is still what it’s doing not only to property values and home damage but also to the heath of homeowners. Because of the corrosive toxins found in the drywall, the plumbing, electrical and air conditioning systems as well as appliances in a home are being damaged. Health related problems range from coughing, irritated eyes, sneezing, breathing problems and more.
The toxic gases are thought to be set off by an environment with high levels of humidity, typical in Florida.
This controversy will undoubtedly continue for some time. When the story broke about a year ago, we only had the ugly part, at least now we have some good, which hopefully can offset the bad.