Aug 13, 2023

Pueblo's Villa Bella homeowners voice concerns over flaws in new homes

When neighbors get together to talk about their new homes in Pueblo’s Villa Bella subdivision, the frustration is palpable.

Matthew Hepworth has a leaking furnace and air conditioner combo unit. The water has soaked a portion of the carpet in a bedroom next to the utility closet.

Leticia Sandoval’s home had broken floor joists and a section of shingles blew off her roof.

Adrian Sanchez and his wife Louise had a broken air conditioner.

A piece of siding has blown off Chris Bodemer’s home. His fireplace doesn’t have the required vapor barrier, and without it condensation could build within the walls and lead to mold growth.

Patrica Garcia and her husband Esteban Gomez had loose siding flapping in the wind on three sides of their home. It took seven months for repair work to be done and “to this day it is still not fixed properly,” Garcia told the Chieftain.

The homes are far from old. They were built by Richmond American Homes just one and a half years ago or less. Their costs ranged from nearly $400,000 to $600,000.

Many of the homeowners noticed problems before closing, but they told the Chieftain they were warned by the builder's representatives they would face monetary fines if they didn’t close on the properties on time.

Most of the homes are still covered by a one-year limited warranty the builder offers. But proving that the warranty should cover the problems or getting someone out to fix the problems has proven difficult, they said.

“There is an emergency number, but no one answers and there is no voicemail. When you do finally get someone, they push back, say it is not their responsibility or you get crickets,” Adrian Sanchez said.

Hepworth agreed. He said he estimates that 95% of the time, he is not able to get in touch with the warranty specialist. He has created a spreadsheet to keep track of his home’s issues.

“We came from a 100-year-old home, built in 1919, and we’ve had more issues in this brand-new home than we ever had there,” Hepworth said.

“More houses are being built and ours still need to be fixed and we are all eating money left and right trying to fix things,” Garcia said.

Sandoval, who works as a nurse, said during the first few months in her new home she "cried every single day."

"This is the worst purchase I ever made ― it was supposed to be my forever home but it is not going to be my forever home," she said.

She estimates she has taken three weeks off of work to meet with repair workers who often don’t show up or have to reschedule because they don’t have the proper tools to do the job.

During a phone conversation with Natasha Gandhi, division president for Richmond American Homes and Dan Stone, assistant project manager, who oversees the warranty department, the Chieftain listed some of the concerns residents have shared.

“We have a limited warranty, we don’t have a comprehensive warranty. A lot of the items you are talking about are not even covered by the warranty,” Gandhi said.

She said residents should report their concerns and the company will address each one on a “case-by-case basis.”

The warranty representative has been to Villa Bella, Stone said, and the company "also got another warranty rep down there that is going through each and every item."

“I think most of the buyers know that if a warranty item comes in, whether it is at the second month or 11th month, that item will get addressed as long as it's covered, even if it is a month late. As long as it has been reported and we would cover it, then it’s covered no matter what,” Stone said.

“If those items are valid and warranted they will still be taken care of. It’s not like one year is done and now it is no longer covered," he explained. "The best thing for them to do is continue to submit warranty requests online so there is a record of them."

"Most of the time they are not being told ‘no’ it is just not moving as fast as some of them would like,” Stone said.

The Chieftain obtained a copy of the limited warranty from a homeowner after Gandhi said she could not share it with others. An example of the wording in section 3.23 of the warrant indicates if siding materials become detached from the home, the builder “will correct affected area if due to improper workmanship or materials.” The warrant goes goes on to say that “separated, loose or delaminated siding can be due to improper maintenance and is not considered a defect.”

Some of Villa Bella’s 60 homeowners have had special signs made that they installed in their front yards. The signs indicate that those residents feel the customer care is “horrible” and urges others “before you buy, come say hi.”

The homeowners say they not only feel betrayed by Richmond, but also the city of Pueblo in it’s failure to address stormwater drainage and the Pueblo Regional Building Department for not fulfilling its duty to call out code violations during inspections.

Pueblo Regional Building Official Mark Guerrero confirmed with the Chieftain his department is addressing three outstanding violation notices in Villa Bella involving Richmond American Homes.

"That's every day stuff — every contractor has something. Some contractors are better than others and this is just par for the course," Guerrero said.

"It is a conversation about what we feel comfortable with approving versus what they do," he said.

Garcia and Gomez reported problems to the Pueblo Regional Building Department. A department representative issued a violation notice July 3, 2023, citing Richmond American Homes with two code violations for the front porch concrete which slopes back to the structure and exterior siding issues.

The violation notice gave Richmond 10 days to correct the violation, but that still hadn’t happened 40 days later, Garcia said.

"Regardless of whether they fix it in that year or not, once they make the claim it should be good for them but I am not a lawyer," Guerrero said.

Many residents have reported gaping holes under their driveways where stormwater has eroded away base material.

"That is something that happens after the fact. We inspect and at the time we inspect it passes. They (homeowners) need to go to their general contractor and they need to make that contractor fix it," Guerrero said.

“I joined 'Pueblo Means Business' just to voice our concerns,” Hepworth said. “The community is amazing but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears,” Hepworth said.

Neighbors also have taken to the private Villa Bella Pueblo Neighborhood Watch and Word of Mouth Facebook page to warn each other about issues to look out for or post pictures of flooding.

Flooding during summer rainstorms is another issue about which the residents have voiced concerns. One resident posted a picture on the Villa Bella Facebook Page of backyard flooding which had enveloped the home’s electrical and utility boxes.

“I probably spent $3,000 on 70 tons of dirt to just make my backyard livable,” Sandoval said, pointing out that about 10 feet of her backyard has just eroded away behind her fence. She fears the fence will drop off next.

Pueblo Stormwater Engineering Manager Jeff Hawkins said he had not heard of complaints about drainage in the subdivision and thanked the Chiefain for sharing a picture of the flooding with him.

"It speaks volumes — that is a bad situation," Hawkins said. "I pulled out the construction plans approved in 2009 to see what the grading looked like."

"On the plan, this parcel behind these houses is a park. The designer showed a drainage swale that was 2 to 3 feet deeper than these walkout basement lots so it does not look like from that picture that that swale is established," Hawkins explained.

He said to the southeast of the subdivision there is a detention pond downstream in the East Dry Creek Arroyo so, "everything is supposed to drain there."

"I did have my inspector go out to look at this. I think the problem can be resolved by just talking with the contractor or developer and asking them to establish a swale so the water does not get in their yards — so I will handle that and hopefully we can get this problem resolved," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said the area had a 100-year storm event in May followed by the wettest June on record, all of which have "been keeping my life interesting. But nonetheless you don't want water in your backyard," Hawkins said.

More on Villa Bella:Villa Bella housing development construction near CSU Pueblo starts in May

Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or via Twitter at Support local news, subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at

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