After DR Horton’s lawsuit, Youngsville tackles building codes; should adopt changes | News

Youngsville passed tougher home building codes last week in response to a landlord lawsuit against DR Horton that alleges the company knowingly built homes that couldn’t withstand Louisiana’s humidity.

The new building requirements, unanimously approved Thursday by the Youngsville City Council, are also expected to pass statewide next week.

“I just want to thank the team,” council member Ken Stansbury said at Thursday’s meeting. “I know that was a big concern for some of our residents.”

Youngsville’s new residential building codes require thicker plywood for exterior walls, require every home to be HVAC tested in the presence of a city inspector, and require attics to support a certain weight.

“He wasn’t a target in Horton,” Wade Trahan, a Youngsville city attorney, said after the meeting. “It was a concern that these houses are being built – by anybody – and become in disrepair. They can’t sell them. It devalues ​​the property of the neighbors, because then you get this overgrown property in which no one lives.”

Ken Ritter, the city’s mayor, announced plans in March to introduce an amendment to strengthen the city’s existing building codes.

Earlier that month, 10 Louisiana attorneys sued DR Horton and Bell Mechanical Services in the 19th East Baton Rouge Parish Judicial District Court on behalf of a Youngsville family and thousands of other homeowners. in the state. They allege Alicia and West Dixon’s home in Youngsville’s Sugar Ridge subdivision was built with poor attic ventilation and an improper air conditioning system that created a negative pressure environment in the home that sucks in air. warm, humid air inside. They also allege the companies “conspired to intentionally mislead” homebuyers into a “scheme of fraud and racketeering” when installing and repairing HVAC systems in new homes.

The lawyers asked a judge to rule on the possibility of proceeding with a class action.

Lawyers for DR Horton have “vigorously” dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, saying the lawsuit was premature and filed in an inappropriate venue. The attorneys asked District Judge Don Johnson to dismiss the lawsuit.

The next hearing in this case is scheduled for Monday morning.

Owners of Youngsville’s Sugar Ridge Subdivision have filed complaints for years against DR Horton at city council meetings and in state district court, complaining of water leaks, mold, plumbing faulty and HVAC system failures in their new homes.

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Youngsville City Council voted in October 2014 to temporarily suspend new building permits for DR Horton to determine if the developer was following building codes after residential complaints. Two weeks later, the council reinstated the builder’s permits after an investigation found the Sugar Ridge homes met requirements.

Although city inspectors must inspect every new home, they are not required to verify that a home meets the minimum standard for every building code in the book.

“In fact, you’re talking about several books that probably stack up to 2 feet high,” said Bobby Parks, a building scientist and vice president of the Louisiana Home Builders Association. “It’s just not possible to check every code and its compliance, so they do spot checks. Different building code officials tend to have different areas of specialties that they will typically check. If there’s a persistent problem in an area, then that specific code will be highlighted a little more often.However, just because the building code official does not inspect does not absolve the builder of the responsibility to comply to all these building codes.

However, Youngsville inspectors are now required by local law to check for compliance with a particular state building code – one that outlines how HVAC systems must be able to properly remove moisture from the interior. houses.

“Not only does your home’s air conditioner in winter and summer blow hot or cold air inside,” Trahan said. “It also circulates and exhausts the air in your home. If you have too much tonnage, your air conditioner won’t work hard enough to pull enough humidity into the building. If you put it too low or don’t have enough tonnage, it looks like you can run constantly, but it still doesn’t have the effect of removing moisture.”

The Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council’s Technical Code Review and Advisory Committee approved Youngsville’s proposed changes by a 6-to-1 vote, with two committee members abstaining, at a May 3 meeting. .

Youngsville’s amendment came to committee because of two conflicting statutes in Louisiana law, one of which states that municipalities are required to enforce state building codes. By passing the Youngsville Amendment at the state level, the city was able to comply but also enforce its own law immediately instead of waiting until January 1, when the state amendment is expected to go into effect. .

The proposed amendment to Louisiana’s building code will only require the thicker exterior wall cladding for homes in climate zone 2A, which includes the hottest and most humid part of the state, from Alexandria to the Gulf Coast, which also experiences the greatest risk of hurricane-force winds. .

The committee’s recommendation is expected to be approved on Wednesday, when it is presented to the full advisory council of the Building Code Council. If approved, the statewide building code change will go into effect in 2023.

“The city of Youngsville has stepped up and done something that I think the whole southern part of the state is going to benefit from,” Parks said. “And maybe they’ll help other people realize that their voice matters.”

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