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Building inspector finds flaws in HabiJax home

Inspector looks at 1 of 85 homes in Fairway Oaks built by HabiJax in 2000

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A third-party certified building inspector discovered numerous flaws with one of the HabiJax-built homes in the Fairway Oaks neighborhood.

For the past month, the News4Jax I-Team has been digging into reports that show the area on Jacksonville’s Northside in which HabiJax chose to build the 85 homes in 2000 is located near a landfill that may not have been lined in the 1950s.

Within a few years after the homes were built by HabiJax and 10,000 volunteers in 17 days, residents said that they noticed their homes were shaking and unsettled.

The I-TEAM asked William Chandler of Property 360 LLC, one of Florida’s top building inspectors, to walk through one of the homes in Fairway Oaks, along with the president of the homeowners association and a representative from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

“You already got some pretty major issues. So let me see what I think we have going on, and I'm about to start to take some floor elevations,” Chandler said. “What we’re trying to do right now is determine positively the strongest opinion we can as to what’s going on.”

Chandler inspected Detrese Mixon’s home, finding it had sunk about one-half inch, with the back of the home having sunk even lower.

“Actually 1.5 (inches), yup, an inch and a half,” Chandler said.

After discovering Mixon’s home had lowered an inch and a half since it had been built, Chandler took a look at the concrete.

Chandler said it takes 28 days for concrete to cure, though the process could be expedited. At first glance, he questioned if too much water had been used in the mixture.

“Pouring a very wet mix, versus a dry mix, is a lot easier. We see it all the time, where they add too much water or they may be running a little short so to add a little water to increase it,” Chandler said.

Chandler still has to take concrete samples to the lab, but he said the concrete doesn’t appear to have any wires in it to help prevent cracking. He said the mixture was poorly compacted, and it doesn’t make it any better that the homes were built on unsuitable soil.

“There’s no strength at all. See how loose that is?” Chandler said.

He said the situation could easily have been avoided.

“In 2000, you would use about $40 worth of wire on a house this size,” Chandler said.

He told Mixon that $40 more could have prevented the damage.

Chandler also found a lack of compaction, which he said causes the house to move since slabs are nailed to the wall.

“Let’s say this is your slab, and this is your wall. When I flex this in the idle, watch what happens to your wall. See how it kicks out?” Chandler said to Mixon.

The poorly compacted soil is unsuitable for building homes, Chandler said, but it is suitable for termites. Chandler used a heat camera, which detected elevated thermal levels in the wall.

“One thing about having poorly compacted soil is, under your slab, that’s a perfect place for them to nest,” Chandler said. “The termites are nesting under the slab.”

Chandler said even if Mixon had someone come out to get rid of the termites, they could return in less than a couple of years.

Mixon also said the cracks in her home are widening every day.

“So had HabiJax taken a few more steps to do it right the first time, 16 years later, we wouldn’t be here with a bunch of trash?” Mixon asked the inspector.

Chandler responded by saying, “I think something went wrong 16 years ago. I think loss of compaction is one. Unsuitable soil is a big one. Someone knew this was a landfill. I don’t know how it was determined to build here."

It’s his belief that any fix to homes like Mixon’s will only be temporary. He said the solution would have been to never build the homes in the first place.

Chandler also said the issues could prevent Mixon from selling her home. He said she would have to disclose the issues to anyone interested in buying it.

“Absolutely, because as soon as they find out, you’re giving their money back,” Chandler said. 

Jacksonville Councilwoman Katrina Brown said she has been working with residents and the mayor to see if anything can be done. Jacksonville Area Legal Aid said no court documents have been filed, but it’s working with the city to find solutions.