Dream homes become nightmares for new homeowners following series of plumbing leaks

Builder DR Horton working with owners to fix leaks caused by defective pipes

By Tim Gerber - Reporter/Anchor

SAN ANTONIO - They invested their hard-earned money into what they thought were their dream homes, but instead they've found themselves living in a nightmare. Several homeowners in one far Northwest Side neighborhood have been dealing with frequent pipe bursts that have left them frustrated and fearful of what will come next.

The KSAT 12 Defenders have been looking into their complaints for months and seeking answers from their builder, DR Horton.

Diane Parra and her husband bought their new DR Horton home in the Red Bird Ranch subdivision in 2012.

She said they experienced their first pipe burst in July 2015. Since then, they've had six more. The most recent break occurred in September.

"We were getting ready to walk out the door and my daughter came running, saying there was a leak in our small hallway, and the water was dripping out of the smoke detector," Parra said.

Each time a pipe bursts, it leaves behind a big mess, including damaged walls, ceilings, floors and furniture.

The Parra home is still under warranty and DR Horton has been fixing the leaks as they happen and repairing the water damage.

"They repair that certain portion and then they send in another contracted company to do the restoration of the home, so they usually just look at the damage and determine what it is they can do at that point," Parra said. "It’s just moving throughout the house, so obviously the pipe is faulty. I mean, it would make sense to me to come and re-pipe the entire home, cost-wise, for whoever is involved, and then the inconvenience for a household like ours, having to stop everything we're doing to address these issues."

Chad Williamson lives in the same neighborhood as the Parras. He said he's had three pipe bursts in his home since 2014. The first one occurred just a few months after he moved in.

"It ended up being one of the lines going down through the attic to the outdoor faucet. It cracked," Williamson said. "I'm not sure if it was from cold or whatnot, but it developed a small hairline crack that we're now very familiar with and kind of soaked the drywall for the ceiling and the outside wall, so they quickly replaced that."

Williamson said DR Horton has also been repairing the leaks and damage in his home, even though he's the second owner. He said he's since learned that the previous owner had also experienced leaks, but the plumbing problems were not disclosed to him before buying the house.

"Nothing was disclosed to us as far as leaks or any repairs that had been done to the house," Williamson said. "It would have been nice to know. This is also our first house. I've been in the Marine Corps about 19 years, so we've moved around and lived in Hawaii a good portion of it and chose not to purchase out there. This is our first opportunity to actually own a home finally."

Williamson and his wife, Diane, are just two of at least 11 homeowners the Defenders have identified in the Red Bird Ranch development who are experiencing the same type of plumbing problems.

The issue appears to be with the type of pipes used, which are known as PEX, or cross linked polyethylene.

DR Horton said its plumbers installed PEX manufactured by a company that has been named in a class action lawsuit related to the defects.

In a statement sent to the Defenders, DR Horton said, "We share in our homeowners' frustrations caused by this issue. We are working diligently to address the homes affected and to make any necessary repairs as quickly as possible. The pipes, which are specific to one manufacturer, were purchased and installed by a third-party contractor between 2008 and 2012 and the leaks started several years later. We have been and will remain steadfast in our commitment to resolving the water pipe issue."

DR Horton said it believes the issue is limited to certain batches of the pipe and said it knows of 1,000 homes in Bexar County that have experienced leaks. The builder said it has repaired or re-piped over 900 homes to date.

While DR Horton has been responsive to its customers dealing with leaks and bursts, Diane Parra and others told the Defenders they are tired of the patchwork fixes they've been getting and have requested their homes be re-piped.

"They said they'd build us a good condition home, and I don't believe that this home is in good condition. I don't believe my children should be walking into the house, looking at the ceiling, being scared of every little noise that the house makes because, you know, it's another potential burst," Parra said. "I believe DR Horton, or whoever they feel is responsible, should come in and re-pipe this home and make us whole again."

After the Defenders got involved, Parra said DR Horton finally agreed to re-pipe her home, which should happen sometime in January.

Williamson is hoping for the same outcome, but he's also worried about how the plumbing problems could affect the resale value of his home. He said he can't in good conscience sell his home without disclosing the problems to potential buyers.

"I can't rightfully walk away from this house without disclosing it," Williamson said. "What effect is that eventually going to have on the value of our home? It's not a secret within the neighborhood that this is an issue. So that's probably the biggest concern that we have now is walking away from here losing money."

DR Horton said it will "respond to warranty concerns for original and subsequent homeowners and have every intention of continuing to make repairs for any homeowner affected by the pipe issue."

The company said homeowners should "look for some spotting on the wall as a result of a pinhole in the plumbing pipe. Any homeowner that does experience a leak should contact D.R. Horton's local warranty department at 210-496-2668. Once a formal warranty request is received, D.R. Horton will arrange to meet with the homeowner for a home inspection at the homeowner's earliest convenience in order to have the issue resolved."

Copyright 2016 by KSAT - All rights reserved.