Uneven floor, missing cabinet doors: Winter Garden family battles home builder Lennar

Couple say dream home turned into nightmare

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - From the outside, Torey Eisenman and Bill Gustavson's 5,557 square-foot Winter Garden waterfront house is an all-American home that many would love to own.

However, the inside of the Emerald Pointe community home leaves much to be desired.

Walking around the second floor of the house is a balancing act. The floors and sub-floors have all been removed in most of the upstairs, and it's been this way for four months.

"It has been horrible on our family," Eisenman said. "Extremely difficult."

Eisenman and Gustavson bought the home for $1,094,300 from CalAtlantic Group, which merged with Lennar Corp. in February, making them the largest home builder in the country, according to property records. They closed on the six-bedroom house on Dec. 29 and immediately knew their new home had problems.

"We were missing cabinet doors.  We're still missing a shower head," Eisenman said.

Four months after moving in, they found another problem. While having a pool table installed, the installer noticed an uneven section of floor in the upstairs loft game room.

"(Lennar) argued with us, that there wasn't an issue, but after several meetings they agreed, we had an issue," Eisenman said.

Lennar agreed to fix the uneven floor and a list of other things, Eisenman said.

Eisenman said she was given a timeline. The company would begin work April 10 and be completed April 20, she said.

In the first couple of days there was a major demolition.

"Three days later, I came home and everything was gone in my home.  All these floors were gone," Eisenman said.

Eisenman said she initially thought one section of the floor would be removed. However, when making the repair, "because of the adhesive used to attach the finish materials to the subfloor sheathing, we were required to remove more than anticipated portions of the floor sheathing," Lennar Customer Service Manager Don Smith wrote in a letter to the couple on May 7.

The missing floors made the upstairs uninhabitable and caused the first delay. In order to put the house back together, Lennar now needed a permit from the city of Winter Garden, which required Eisenman and her husband to sign a notice of commencement.

However, the document named CalAtlantic as the contractor instead of Lennar and the couple refused to sign.

If the couple didn't sign, "your home's warranty may be voided if you refuse to cooperate with us in any manner," Smith wrote.

The couple hired an attorney and Lennar later agreed to be listed on the notice of commencement.

According to Eisenman, Lennar's attorney also wanted them to sign releases and nondisclosures. The legal wrangling lasted another month.

Even after all the issues were agreed upon, Eisenman said the company is still dragging its feet four months after this all started. Eisenman has a smart door lock that tracks when people come and go. She said workers have not worked a 40 hour week on her property since they started.

"It's unconscionable," she said.

At one point, Eisenman drove her son Zach to Nashville to stay with a family member to get him away from the situation. He has anxiety and several medical issues that prevent him from playing traditional sports. Eisenman said buying the house on the lake was partially to give him other options, like being able to jet ski.

The family is currently in temporary housing. Lennar is giving them a stipend of $400 per day, according to an agreement signed by all parties.

Danielle Tocco, Lennar vice president of communications,  sent this response to News 6 via email:

"We have worked to resolve this issue for several months, but had to wait for the homeowner's permission to complete the repair," Tocco wrote. "While the home was built by CalAtlantic, Lennar stands behind the quality of our homes and will continue to address all legitimate issues until they are resolved."

Eisenman, who owns the Benchmark Real estate Group, said she worked in the home building industry for 12 years.

"I've owned nine new homes with a lot of builders and I’ve never experienced this," she said, adding the stress on her family is unbearable.

"For one, they're destroying my family, and that’s so incredibly wrong," she said. "There's so much stress right now in our home."

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