Beware Chinese Drywall: What A Homeowner Should Look For

new home insurance

Photo from MYJ

 

In August, we learned of a new Chinese drywall litigation underway.

According to Claims Journal, the new suit “repeats the request for class certification. It estimates that the defendants could be liable for more than $1.5 billion in damages.”

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon has previously held Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. and related defendants in contempt of court for ignoring court proceedings over various damages that were caused as a result of the drywall. He also slapped them with $55,000 in fines and attorneys’ fees and ordered them to stop doing business in the U.S. or submit 25 percent of its profits each year for violations.

“Families in Louisiana and 45 states have been terribly affected by defective Chinese drywall, forcing them to move out of their homes and often putting their finances and health at risk. This lawsuit is an important step in the fight to get China to step up to its responsibilities to make this right to the American families harmed by their dangerous and defective products,” said former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana.

Fallon has already ordered companies to pay $2.7 million to seven affected homeowners in Virginia, but he hasn’t agreed to class action requests for thousands of other homeowners, most along the Gulf Coast, at this time.

Just how prevalent is this Chinese drywall problem throughout the U.S.? For answers to that question, we turn to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which notes that numbers were at 2,265 in Florida, 731 in Louisiana, between 100 and 250 in Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama, 57 in Texas and up to 37 in other states, most of which are in the single digits.

So while it’s not a huge problem compared to the vast body of homes throughout the U.S., it runs the risk of becoming a bigger problem and putting many things about your customers’ quality of life in jeopardy.

To assist home insurance leads and customers in being able to spot Chinese drywall, feel free to pass along the following info, provided by the CPSC.

 

Step 1: Do a visual inspection and look for the following items.

  • Drywall that was installed between 2001 and 2009.
  • Blackening of copper electrical wiring and/or air conditioning evaporator coils.

 

Step 2: Search deeper for corroborating evidence.

(If the Chinese drywall was installed between 2005 and 2009, then at least two of the below conditions must apply. If between 2001 and 2004, then four of the conditions must be met at minimum.)

  • Elemental sulfur in the drywall core (requires outside lab testing)
  • Copper sulfide on coupons, grounding wires, and/or air conditioning coils (requires outside lab testing)
  • Chinese markings on drywall (This does not imply that all Chinese drywall or that only Chinese drywall is associated with these problems, but that among homes with the characteristic corrosion, Chinese drywall is a corroborating marker for the characteristic problems.) Such markings may not be present or easily discerned in all problem drywall homes.
  • Elevated sulfide gas emissions from drywall (requires outside lab testing)
  • Corrosion induced by drywall in test chambers (requires outside lab testing)

 

What can happen if faulty Chinese drywall is left unchecked?

Emissions may have the odor of rotten eggs, and grow worse as temperatures and humidity rise. These actions cause copper surfaces to turn black and powdery, which is a chemical process that indicates a hydrogen sulfide reaction. Copper pipes, wiring, and air conditioner coils as well as silver jewelry may be affected. Health-wise, homeowners have reported a variety of symptoms, like respiratory problems (i.e. asthma attacks, chronic coughing and difficulty breathing), as well as chronic headaches and sinus issues.

Not an issue one should have to deal with inside their dream home.

 

In Summary

Contractors generally work in good faith to do the very best work for homeowners, but if your clients notice any of the above symptoms, encourage them to contact the CPSC and/or an attorney.

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