Noblesville — A Hamilton County judge Wednesday approved a $24 million settlement between an Indianapolis home builder and the owners of more than 2,000 houses potentially affected by moisture and mold.
Superior Court 2 Judge Bernard L. Pylitt ruled that a 50-page proposed agreement in the class-action lawsuit is fair and should be implemented. The deal had been negotiated by attorneys for the homeowners and for Trinity Homes and its parent, Beazer Homes. Attorneys for both sides were pleased by the ruling. A few homeowners have complained that the deal doesn’t treat them fairly or give enough protection if the mold reappears. Unless a homeowner files an appeal, Pylitt’s ruling will begin a procedure of inspections and repairs. Fixing all of the homes that might be found to be damaged could take several years.
The suit was filed on behalf of buyers or current owners of Trinity houses built from 1998 to 2002 in nearly all corners of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Particularly affected are subdivisions in Boone, Hamilton and Hendricks counties, where Trinity has built hundreds of houses per year. Prices typically ranged from $200,000 to $500,000.
The owners allege their houses have moisture, mold and other property damage due to improper construction techniques, including leaks in the roofs and incorrectly applied exterior brick. Richard E. Shevitz, an Indianapolis attorney representing the homeowners, praised the ruling. “The moisture problems in walls of thousands of homes will be addressed at no cost to the homeowners. And it will be done under a time limit and the oversight of an outside supervisor,” he said.
Michael R. Rosiello, an Indianapolis attorney representing the builders, agreed. “Trinity is very pleased the judge has approved this class settlement. We felt it was a win-win for all parties.”
Court records indicated 2,044 homes are covered by the pact, but 40 other homeowners opted not to join in the settlement. Several have filed their own lawsuits to try to reach a separate deal, including a request that the builders buy back their damaged homes. More than two years ago, when the mold issue surfaced, Trinity did offer to buy back about 50 homes, mostly in the Brittany Chase subdivision in Boone County, but the company has since declined to buy more.
Rosiello said the cost of the mold and moisture remediation won’t be known until more of the homes are inspected. Beazer said in its public reports to stockholders that $24 million has been set aside for the work. He said remediation had begun even before the judge’s ruling. The mold in some homes has been cleaned out, improperly installed brick has been removed and replaced, and roofs have been fixed on a limited number of houses.
Under the deal, work on 216 homes must be completed every six months, and work on each house must be complete within 16 weeks after it begins. An independent engineer will represent the homeowners’ interests and inspect and oversee the repairs.
A two-year warranty on the repairs is to be provided by the builders.