Disappointing HOA rebuild following gas explosion (NJ)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


What if several homes in your Association-Governed townhouse community were destroyed by an accidental explosion or fire? Who would pay for the damages? How long would it take to rebuild?

And most importantly, would your home be made good as new again?

Two years ago in South Fork HOA of Ewing, New Jersey, dozens of homes were damaged by a fatal gas explosion. One woman died from her injuries, and 11 homes that were completely destroyed had to be rebuilt. That process that took well over a year, because it involved coordinating the Association’s insurance coverage with individual policies of homeowners.

But when several owners returned home, they were seriously disappointed in the quality of construction and finishing work of the contractors hired by the HOA board.

As you can see in this NJ.com article, the general contractor did not communicate well with subcontractors, and apparently quality control was lacking. For example, contractors failed to allow enough room for a 36 inch wide refrigerator in one homeowner’s new kitchen. Woodwork installation is sloppy, with unsightly gaps. Floors boards were not properly installed. Replacement materials  are not of comparable quality to what had been destroyed.

You can read details in the article and see the questionable workmanship in the photos.


Problems persist 2 years after fatal explosion destroys homes

By Cristina Rojas for NJ.com

Nearly two years after a deadly gas explosion ripped through their Ewing neighborhood, Tara and Billy Jones were finally able to move back into their newly rebuilt home.

They had lived through more than a year of frustrations and delays and hoped that the return home would be easy — but it’s been anything but that.

“We didn’t ask for this explosion and now we’re getting treated so poorly,” Tara Jones said.

Jones and her husband said they have been worn out by battles with the contractors and have had to deal with many problems, like cracks in the walls, sloppy patchwork, crooked window frames, water damage and noise coming through the walls from their neighbors — something she said never happened in the 13 years they lived there.

Even now, seven months since they moved back in, there is still a punch list of items yet to be completed or fixed.

Two years ago on March 4, the South Fork neighborhood was shaken to its core when a gas leak and subsequent explosion destroyed 11 houses and damaged dozens of others. The blast killed 62-year-old Linda Cerretelli and injured seven utility workers.

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While you might like the idea of paying your HOA to take care of exterior maintenance, remember that you have little control over the timeliness of that work and the ultimate quality of those services.

When accidents happen, and the HOA is responsible for rebuilding both inside and out,  the Association may only be obligated to repair to no-frills standards. For example, the HOA might be required to install carpet and vinyl floors instead of the hardwood floors you loved.

That was the case in South Fork HOA. Many homeowners had upgraded their homes over the years. But the Association’s policy would only cover repair and replacement up to basic builder’s standards that existed at the time of original construction. Homeowners had to pay for replacing upgrades themselves, either with insurance claim payments or out of their own pockets. Then the work had to be coordinated with the HOA’s contractors.

That’s why, nearly two years later, some homeowners are still not fully settled back in their homes, and still dealing with their HOA and its contractors.

More proof that HOA living is not always as carefree as advertised.


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