Buy a new home and the last thing you expect are water woes--problems like not enough water pressure to wash your clothes or take a simple shower.
But that’s what more than 20 new homeowners say is happening to them, and they claim neither the developer nor City of Houston officials seem to want to own up the mess.
They live at 650 Westcross St., near Crosstimbers and North Shepherd. Armed with cell phone cameras, many have documented the problem.
"This is my shower on as high as it will go,” one homeowner said of the slowly-flowing showerhead.
"Barely trickling,” another said.
"It's just annoying it's just annoying,” said homeowner David Knittle.
"Especially if you're grumpy like me in the morning and want to take a shower and you can't,” Knittle said.
It's made plenty of others even more grumpy at the Contemporary Garden Oaks subdivision.
"It's irritating,” said John Christoff.
Christoff said he had to use a cup to bathe.
"I filled it up, I dumped it over my head to take a shower,” he said.
He also says that since he pays $2000 rent every month, he has a simple question.
“Doesn't somebody design this stuff? Wouldn't that be part of it?” Christoff said.
That is where the controversy begins. Construction blueprints show the entire subdivision, more than 80 units so far, is fed by a single six inch water line more than 1000 feet long. It was enough cause for concern that homeowner Karen Gordon got a legal team involved.
"The engineers that we've had look at it believe it's a serious construction design problem,” said Attorney Kevin Connolly.
“They believe it doesn't meet code," Connolly said.
Gordon says she tried to get to bottom of it but-
I-Team: "What does the developer say?”
Gordon: “He says it's the city’s problem.”
I-Team: “What does the city say?”
Gordon: “They say it's the developer's problem."
And in the middle of it all?
"We're stuck,” Gordon said.
So the I-Team paid Contemporary Garden Homes a visit. Company Vice-President George Balla answered the door.
I-Team: “Did you build the system up to code is the question?”
Balla: “I mean it was all signed off on by the city."
True enough--it was. In a written statement, Gary Norman with the Department of Public Works and Engineering confirmed the project “meets the requirements of the plumbing code.”
But the I-Team obtained city building inspection reports which show "the water pressure doesn't meet city code" at several units.
We tried to clarify the discrepancy, but the Public Works Department pointed the finger back at the developer. When we tracked down the City’s Gary Norman at a public meeting:
I-Team: “Do these homeowners deserve an explanation about why they can't take a shower?
Norman: “We have no issues with talking to you—be happy to do it later if you'll call to set up an appointment with us.”
But when we did just that, the Public Works Department declined our interview request.
Meanwhile, the developer has come up with a proposed solution. Contemporary Garden Homes has pledged to install a 450-gallon holding tank and a booster pump system to upgrade the supply pressure.
"There are so many things that don't add up,” Gordon said.
Karen Gordon said she is skeptical of the fix-it plan, and maintains homeowners never should have had to deal with the water woes in the first place.
"Water is a third world problem, it's not a first world problem," she said.
Contemporary Garden Homes would not say exactly when water pressure system upgrades will be complete..But Gordon and some 20 other homeowners aren't waiting around. They've filed a lawsuit against the developer for negligence, and violating deceptive trade laws. That same filing claims the company sold, and continues to sell units without disclosing the water pressure problems.