People selling homes that are known to have Louisiana-Pacific Corp. siding should disclose that fact as a possible flaw, attorneys and real estate agents say.
That requirement deals another blow to homeowners who have been complaining for years that L-P’s Inner Seal siding will crack, warp, sprout mushrooms and disintegrate because moisture penetrates the siding. Disclosure prior to a sale could lower the value of a house.
But “based on our attorney’s input, we felt it was best for buyers and sellers,” said Maria Bunting, co-president of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “We added an extra (seller’s disclosure form) page that speaks right to the siding issue.”
Windermere offices throughout the Northwest are being advised to do the same thing, Bunting said. The Spokane Windermere offices said they are following that advice. The matter apparently hasn’t come up in the Coeur d’Alene Windermere office.
“It’s still up in the air as to what Realtors and builders think,” said Richard Kohles, president of the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors and a sales agent for Coldwell Banker-Schneidmiller Realty. “I always think it’s safer to disclose any material fact.”
Schneidmiller Realty once advertised the L-P siding as a feature on homes going up at its Coeur d’Alene Place subdivision. Two of the four contractors at Coeur d’Alene Place - Classic Homes and Shorewood Homes - have switched to other siding for other reasons, Kohles said.
Crescent Homes is continuing to use L-P siding because it believes it’s one of the best products on the market, Kohles said. He wasn’t sure whether the fourth contractor is still using Inner Seal.
The issue of disclosure surfaced recently when a trio of attorneys blasted the proposed settlement of class-action suits homeowners have filed against L-P. Under that settlement, anyone who purchases a home with L-P siding before Jan. 1, 1996, can file a claim for the next seven years if problems develop.
L-P is setting up a $275 million fund to pay the claims of an estimated 100,000 homeowners with complaints about the siding. A federal judge in Portland is expected to approve the agreement in April.
That package of proposed remedies is not adequate, said David Ashbaugh, a Seattle attorney representing apartment owners in litigation over the siding. For example, it shortens the warranty from 25 years to seven years.
The class action settlement doesn’t cover all costs and people who agree to it may not be able to recover money from an insurance company. “Any settlement needs to compensate the owners for the full cost of replacing defective siding,” Ashbaugh said.
The attorneys who pushed L-P to offer the settlement said that homeowners will recover more under the class action claims process. “We don’t think an honest comparison is being given,” said Chris Brain, one of the class action lawyers.
“Our settlement is designed to cover the entire replacement cost, adjusted for inflation, every year,” Brain said. The amount of money each individual receives depends upon an inspection by a claims adjuster.
Anyone who had already settled a claim with L-P can file a new claim under the class action settlement and potentially collect more, Brain said. And, under the terms of the class action settlement, L-P cannot discount the payment to a homeowner because the siding was improperly installed or maintained.
People who opt out of the class action settlement have no alternative but to sue and they must prove that installation and maintenance were not a factor in the siding’s degeneration, Brain said. “There’s a heck of a lot of risk to going off on your own.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: For help Homeowners seeking to collect damages through the class action can call 1-800-245-2722.
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