The winter storm that blew through Enumclaw earlier this month caused damage to a number of new homes in the city’s Suntop Farm development.
“It’s not a pretty picture over here,” said Annie Nahon, who has only been living in her home for about two months. She added the damage to her house wasn’t as bad as some of her neighbors, but she didn’t come out unscathed, either: shingles and siding were blown off, melted snow soaked her attic insulation and started leaking into her top floor, parts of her furnace broke down, and a whole circuit blew due to water damage.
Nahon doesn’t fault the storm. She said LGI Homes, the developer of the Suntop neighborhood, is to blame for cutting corners on not just her house, but many in her neighborhood.
When Nahon got a contractor to look at her roof, she “was shocked and horrified that my tiles were not nailed in correctly… and they’re not glued down,” she said. “She was like, ‘your whole roof is going to have to be replaced… I’m guessing this is how they did all the other roofs. Every single roof, in this entire neighborhood, needs to be redone.’”
Nahon talked to her insurance, which said her year-long homeowners warranty should cover the damage to her home. But when she called the warranty company, they told her she wasn’t covered under “inclement weather” or “acts of God.”
While the storm was a doozy, she said it shouldn’t have caused this sort of damage — according to a local private weather station, wind speeds on Feb. 12 and 13 didn’t exceed 40 mph, and wind gusts only got around to 50 mph.
Nahon added that the neighborhood Facebook group is awash with people in the same position as her.
“They just don’t know what to do. They’re young families. This is their first time owning a house. Some of the families, [LGI] is telling them they’re fixing it, working on it, and other people are being told, ‘No, we’re not covering anything,’” Nahon said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to how LGI is handling this.”
Troy Runner and his partner are also speaking out — not just about the storm damage, but the way LGI has been doing business since they started looking for a home last summer.
Runner’s story is one of a developer that’s difficult to communicate with, pushy in their sales tactics, and reluctant to be transparent.
One of the most egregious things LGI did, Runner said, was try to strong-arm them into signing paperwork that kept their real estate agent from making her commission on the home sale.
“It’s a document they wanted us to sign that says that we’re not being represented by a real estate agent,” said Runner, adding that he and his partner were represented by a local real estate agent from the get-go. “The reason they were trying to get us to do that is because their sales people get paid full commission if you’re not being represented by a real estate agent.”
The Courier-Herald confirmed that the dispute over the commission has been brought to arbitration.
The next biggest issue Runner had with his home: it wasn’t 100 percent finished by the time they moved in.
“They wouldn’t let me have [the house] inspected until the final approval — three days before my closing,” Runner said. “It wasn’t even finished being built, so there weren’t things [my inspector] could write up because they’re still in the process of construction.”
When they did finally move in, his kitchen cabinets didn’t have doors, the ceiling fans weren’t installed, the master bathroom faucet wasn’t working, workers had chipped the flooring in one of the rooms, and there were paint splatters around the home.
“I didn’t want to be nit-picky, but… you’re buying a brand-new house. You’d think all this stuff would be taken care of,” Runner said. “Nothing that was going to prevent me from living here, but not half-a-million-dollar house quality.”
LGI, based in Texas, has not returned a request for comment by print deadline.
Nahon said she had similar issues when she moved in.
“The day of closing, there were three things found to not be working — No. 1, the fireplace, No. 2, my downspouts weren’t connected correctly, and No. 3 the gutters were dented,” she said, adding that she did eventually get a call from someone about the fireplace — seven weeks later. “I already fixed it myself. I have a 2-year-old. I couldn’t risk that the glass was going to fall out and crush him.”
Nahon, who is a real estate agent herself, also said LGI charged her the excise tax on the home, which is usually paid by the seller. “No one has ever seen a builder, a seller of residential property, stick the buyer with the excise tax,” she said.
Seth Pohlman’s story is much of the same. He moved into Suntop Farms in March 2020.
“Two hours before closing, we did a walk-through with the construction manager to point out things that need to be fixed. The walk-through was supposed to be two weeks before we moved in so they would have time to fix any issues before we moved in, but they kept delaying it,” Pohlman said. “There ended up being a two-page list of things that needed attention, some large, some small. We put in numerous work orders and phone calls, but not one thing from our pre-move-in inspection has been completed and it has been a year.”
Pohlman added that a roofing contractor he hired after the storm discovered only four nails were used per shingle, while he said he was told by LGI that because Enumclaw is a windy area, each shingle would have six nails.
“It’s not just this storm where LGI turns their back and breaks promises to their customers. It is their business model,” he said. “Anything they can do to boost their profits, even if it means unethical practices or ignoring building codes.”
Runner agrees: “Their goal was to close by a deadline, and it didn’t matter what needed to be done, or how it was going to be done.”
When the storm came, Runner’s home issues were exacerbated by missing shingles and siding (which, after inspection, looked to also be missing nails and adhesive). There were leaks that flooded the master closet and his bathrooms.
“It was like someone dumped a kiddie pool of water in there,” he said. And like Nahon, he and his partner, Kyle Miller, can’t get LGI’s warranty to kick in.
“This is just wrong and my neighbors and I are trying to get attention on this issue,” Miller said in an email. “LGI- Washington is planning on building a new community in Puyallup very soon and I would hate for more citizens to go through anything like this.”
According to a KIRO 7 report, residential buildings in Enumclaw must be able to handle wind speeds of up to 120 mph. However, this only applies to the building itself, and not necessarily siding or shingles, which are considered accessories. Thus, the city inspector doesn’t sign off on those, KIRO 7 said.
The city of Enumclaw did not respond to a request for comment or verification of accuracy by print deadline.