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Builder, subcontractors blame each other for Florida home defects

Residents of a large master-planned community in the Fort Myers area say they are tired of dealing with lingering construction defects.

They've reported a number of issues, primarily with water infiltration leading to rotting balconies and black mold, as well as inferior stucco on the buildings.

The developer and its construction arm have sued a variety of companies that worked on the condominium complex, including everyone from roofers to architects. The lawsuits encompass claims of breach of contract, negligence, breach of warranty and violations of the Florida building code.

The developer has tried to shift the responsibility for the construction defects to the subcontractors, who, in turn, have denied they did anything wrong and have reversed blame.

One estimate given to the homeowners' association (HOA) that covered the cost to repair 763 units in 123 buildings came in at more than $46 million. The work covered by that estimate would include installing new windows, replacing stucco, painting, sealing and replacing the roofs of the impacted buildings.

The HOA took control of the development in October 2014. The developer told the Naples Daily News in an email that the company is "working diligently with … construction industry experts, including engineers, to address these matters in a responsible, efficient manner. This process is very thorough and time-consuming, although considerable progress has been made."

The community encompasses nearly 450 acres, and construction started in 2006. In all, there are 1,158 homes in the area, including single-family residences. Prices started at less than $200,000 when the first units were sold.

Since the large development was built a bit at a time, it's unclear what caused the defects. Plenty of people have opinions. One attorney told the newspaper that the problems could have resulted from the units going up too fast, with substandard work. Another man, a building industry consultant, said government inspectors are to blame for signing off on the properties, which a city official disputed.

Not every unit has been plagued by defects, and of those that have been, the damage varies by home. One thing in this dispute is certain, though. Homeowners who buy new construction properties are entitled to have all problems fixed and to seek legal recourse if they aren't.

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