JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An attorney representing Fairway Oaks residents, who have been fighting for years to get repairs to what they call poorly built homes, has filed a class action lawsuit against the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville and the city of Jacksonville.
For nearly a year, the News4Jax I-TEAM has been digging into reports that show the area in Northwest Jacksonville, 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 five 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, and homeowners also began complaining about cracked slabs, sinking, mold and termites.
Over the last decade, Nathaniel Borden, president of the Fairway Oaks Homeowners Association, has been collecting reports and documents, and serving as the voice of residents who feel that HabiJax, the Housing Commission and the city of Jacksonville haven't done anything to help them get reimbursed or relocated from their homes.
Just this year, Fairway Oaks residents were given hope as they watched multiple City Council members, the mayor and even a state senator tour their sinking homes, but to no avail.
Now, legal action is finally moving forward after Borden made a phone call.
"I received a phone call that apparently was accidental, and on the other end of the line was Mr. Borden," attorney Jack Krumbein, of Krumbein Law PLLC, told the I-TEAM on Tuesday.
Unlike HabiJax, which said homeowners' "complaints stem from lack of maintenance and not from poor construction," Krumbein said justice needs to be served.
"It's people's homes and, as far as I'm concerned, it's food, shelter and everything else down the line," Krumbein said.
That's why Krumbein's firm and the Strems Law Firm have filed a 51-page lawsuit that outlines 12 different counts against both the city and HabiJax.
In the lawsuit, count one alleges there was a breach of contract against HabiJax, saying the residents were sold properties built on a former city dump and that those homes are not habitable.
The lawsuit also claims negligence, stating that had the city and HabiJax informed residents about the properties they were purchasing, they would have never experienced damages.
Another count in the lawsuit is negligent misrepresentation against HabiJax. It states HabiJax represented that the houses met reasonable standards of quality and habitability, but that HabiJax knew or should have known that its representation of the quality of houses being sold to the plaintiffs wasn't right.
The lawsuit goes on to say that there was even misrepresentation against HabiJax, stating HabiJax concealed or left out important facts.
Krumbein said that sometimes people have to be able to call for a stranger's help, the same way one would call family, and that was the call he received from Borden.
"It's a complaint that fundamentally involves breach of contract, negligence and various other accounts, including misrepresentation," Krumbein said. "This is about justice."
Residents said they are pleased the suit has been filed in Duval County Court.