Dec. 2 is an important date for some homeowners. It’s the last day they can join an omnibus class action lawsuit against Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co. Ltd., which allegedly shipped defective drywall to various homebuilders during the U.S. housing boom.
Chinesedrywall.com, a site created by drywall opponents, says the defective drywall was imported from China from 2001 to 2007. It has been found to emit gases, like sulfur dioxide, that produce a foul odor and cause property damage such as problems with air conditioners, electrical wiring, copper plumbing, appliances and electronics.
Apart from homeowners joining the suit, government assistance should be given to those who have been affected.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received close to 2,000 complaints from residents throughout the country.
According to CPSC, there is no definitive test to determine if a home was constructed with the defective Chinese drywall. When the homes were built, several types of drywall from different companies were used. The defective drywall may have been used in some homes more than in others.
The most common consumer complaints include a “rotten egg” smell, health problems for homeowners and corrosion or blackening of metal items. The contaminated product has a slightly gray color in comparison to non-contaminated drywall, which is white.
Other clues for homeowners include blackened copper, blackened and corroded air conditioner units, and pitted and corroded bathroom fixtures.
If homeowners want to fix the problem, they have to move out for about three months for all the drywall to be replaced.
“It’s economically devastating, and it’s emotionally devastating,” said Florida attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez, who filed one of the lawsuits, to CNN.
It would cost a third of an affected home’s value to fix the dwelling, Gonzalez said.
“The interior has to be gutted, the homeowners have to continue paying mortgages and they have to pay for a (temporary) place to live,” Gonzalez said.
Not all builders are offering to pay for the repairs, which leaves the homeowners with a huge burden. They have to continue their monthly payments, mortgage and rent, plus finance moving costs and the cost of fixing the drywall problem.
According to The Gainesville Sun, members of Congress have proposed a few forms of relief for affected homeowners. They include low-interest loans for repairs, rental subsidies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tax deductions for property losses and lenders’ forbearance on mortgage payments in drywall-affected homes.
Since the long-term effects haven’t been determined, homeowners should be compensated for impacts from the drywall. The sulfur that is being emitted has short-term effects such as headaches and bloody noses, but the long-term effects could be devastating.
The home values are also going to decrease, whether the drywall is replaced or not, and buyers may be hesitant to purchase a home that was once built with the contaminated product.
Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.