Chinese Drywall Repair Fraud Prompts Call for CrackdownNov 17, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The number of firms offering Chinese drywall "solutions" has exploded in recent months, prompting a group of U.S. Senators to ask the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on such scams. It's important to remember that no Chinese drywall remediation or testing protocols have been established as yet, so any claims that a particular company has found a fix for the Chinese drywall problem are questionable at best.
In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Senators Mary Landrieu, (D-La), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), David Vitter (R-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.), raised concerns about deceptive practices that prey on consumers with defective drywall and asked the Commission to fully investigate and prosecute companies engaging in these activities.
"Homeowners in our states are already struggling to deal with the health and property issues related to the defective drywall," the Senators wrote. "We believe that these impacted homeowners should not be further victimized by spending additional funds on remediation or preliminary testing not approved or endorsed by the Federal government or any State agency. As we work together with the designated Federal and State agencies to develop real solutions to the problems created by contaminated drywall, it is important that the FTC ensure that homeowners are protected from companies seeking to make fast money off the misfortune of these homeowners."
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received about 1,897 reports from residents in 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico concerning Chinese drywall. Gases emitted from Chinese drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode.
People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory and sinus problems that may be linked to the gases. The drywall problems have forced many people out of their homes, and some families are dealing with the heavy financial burden of paying both rent and mortgage payments. Those unable to afford additional rent have no choice but to stay in their smelly – and possibly hazardous – homes.
While it is understandable that Chinese drywall victims want the problem resolved quickly, it is important to note that remediation protocols have not been established, and cross-contamination could occur if repairs are not done correctly. Even after Chinese drywall has been torn out and replaced, out-gassing of sulfur compounds and other elements continues to occur. Remediation will only further jeopardize public health when it is done without adequate safeguards or by unqualified individuals.
If Chinese drywall repairs are performed before effective methods are developed, homeowners may be without recourse should they find that repairs do not confirm with the protocols that eventually will be established. For that reason, it is in the best interests of homeowners to delay any Chinese drywall repairs until a remediation protocol has been formulated.