Your article on our legal dispute in Texas, "Jim Walter homeowners raise the roof" (The Corporation, Aug. 1), was terribly one-sided, implying only a token response on our part rather than the hours spent with your reporter.
It should come as no surprise that attorney Hector Gonzalez and his clients will allege that any and all problems with their homes are the result of poor construction: They are not making their mortgage payments and under normal circumstances would face certain foreclosure. The article makes only passing reference to the very significant issues of unsightliness and deterioration resulting from years of homeowner neglect and poor maintenance. Moreover, it never addresses the fact that Jim Walter Homes builds to stages of interior finishing selected by our customers, and therefore the condition of these homes often reflects work Gonzalez' clients performed themselves.
The Vidals allege that our company did not respond to complaints about a problem with their foundation. However, according to their own sworn court statement, the Vidals didn't complain of a foundation problem until they had jumped on Gonzalez' bandwagon some six years after their home was completed.
We have made clear that we will gladly repair any problems that an independent inspector determines were legitimately the result of our construction, but Gonzalez prevents us from doing so. We are confident that when the facts of the case are fully presented in the proper forum, we will prevail and the financial impact will be negligible.
Any reader who has built a home knows that problems often arise during or even after construction and occasionally escalate to litigation. Such disputes currently represent less than two-tenths of 1% of our 84,000 active mortgage accounts, excluding the unique situation in south Texas, and nearly half of those represent counterclaims predictably filed by customers trying to
prevent or delay foreclosure.
The fact that a company our size sometimes faces litigation is, regrettably, a function of doing business today, but it is not the standard by which Jim Walter Homes should reasonably be judged. Measure us, instead, by the more than 300,000 satisfied families for whom we have provided affordable homeownership for over 47 years.
David L. Townsend
Human Resources/Public Relations
Walter Industries Inc.