WY: Lawsuit now involves 16 of Casper’s Mesa del Sol homes

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Today’s post highlights Mesa del Sol, Casper, Wyoming.

In case you missed the previous post, according to a March 2017 report in the Casper Star-Tribune, dozens of homes in Mesa Del Sol Addition (West Casper) have allegedly been built with shallow foundations upon land sites with unstable and expansive soil. The lawsuit claims that the developer and construction companies involved were made aware of need to use drilled pier foundations for new homes in Mesa Del Sol Addition, but chose to ignore those instructions.

As a result, several of the 26 completed homes now have cracked foundations. Homeowners have been, or soon will be, forced to move out of their homes, which have been deemed uninhabitable.

Last year, 8 homes were involved in the original lawsuit. Today, homeowners of a total of 16 properties have filed lawsuits against a Realtors, a home builder, and construction companies, alleging failure of home foundation systems and other construction defects.

Among the named defendants:

Three developers —

Broker One Real Estate, owned by Randall Hall and Michele Trost-Hall

Coupens Construction, owned by Neil Coupens

Mesa No. 3 LLC, Rich Fairservis, registered agent

Home builder Ashby Construction, owned by David Kelley

And ECS Engineers, the expert responsible for pre-construction soil testing at the site.

According to Jason Ochs, attorney for homeowners of Mesa del Sol, ECS Engineers issued conflicting reports on soil conditions, one of which observed the presence of expansive clay soils, and one that did not. Expansive soils require non-standard foundations with deep pier foundations. The homes were built with standard shallow foundations.

A second lawsuit filed by an individual homeowner, Geno Munoz, who purchased his home after the initial lawsuit was filed, claims that the real estate agent who sold the home to the Plaintiff told him that his house was not part of the original lawsuit. After he purchased the home, Munoz says the house began to reveal its defects.

All homeowners state that they were not made aware of either of the ECS Engineers reports, or the fact that their home foundations were inappropriate for expansive soils.

Complicating  factors for owners of property in Mesa del Sol: a homeowners’ association (HOA) that remains under the control of a developer/real estate broker. (See Covenants and Restrictions for Mesa del Sol, establishing an HOA, here.)

The HOA is responsible for maintaining the common area, which consists of nothing more than a set of cluster mailboxes and some entrance signs.

That’s the only maintenance responsibility of the HOA.

But even a small, insignificant common area is enough to grant a great deal of power and authority to the HOA board, which, in this case, consists of developer affiliates.  Mesa del Sol HOA collects assessments (which, according to the CC&Rs started at $100 annually), and enforces CC&Rs, including architectural standards. Regular or special assessments create a lien on each property, just as they would for an HOA with common amenities or private streets to maintain.

Interestingly, according to the CC&Rs, the developer does not have to pay any assessments on vacant, undeveloped lots.

Now imagine how awkward and difficult it must be when roughly half of the homes built and sold in the neighborhood are suing the developers who control the HOA. And keep in mind that all Mesa del Sol homeowners are legally obligated to pay HOA assessments — including any future special assessments for capital improvments —even if they can no longer live in their homes due to foundation defects.

Number of houses ‘crumbling’ in west Casper subdivision rises to 16, attorney claims

By Seth Klamann 307-266-0544, seth.klamann@trib.com
May 31, 2018
Updated Jun 1, 2018

There are now 16 houses in disrepair in a west Casper subdivision because of alleged poor construction and disregard for official soil reports, claims an attorney suing a number of people and companies involved in the homes’ construction.

A first lawsuit was filed last year by at least eight groups of plaintiffs against more than a dozen real estate agents and construction companies. Among other things, the suit alleged that the defendants were given a report that stated the soil upon which the homes in the Mesa Del Sol subdivision would be built required a special kind of foundation. But, the suit claims, the defendants ignored those reports and built the homes using an ill-suited foundation that has now rendered the houses uninhabitable.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that the defendants did not “inform any of the (homeowners), at any time prior to the signing of the Purchase Contracts … of the finding and recommendations of the geotechnical engineers or that they had constructed the subject residences without the recommended drilled pier foundation systems.”

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