James and Maria Ivory's dreams of a relaxing retirement on Florida's Gulf Coast were put on hold when they discovered their new home had been built with Chinese drywall that emits sulfuric fumes and corrodes pipes. It got worse when they asked their insurer for help -- and not only was their claim denied, but they've been told their entire policy won't be renewed.
Thousands of homeowners nationwide who bought new houses constructed from the defective building materials are finding their hopes dashed, their lives in limbo. And experts warn that cases like the Ivorys', in which insurers drop policies or send notices of non-renewal based on the presence of the Chinese drywall, will become rampant as insurance companies process the hundreds of claims currently in the pipeline.
At least three insurers have already canceled or refused to renew policies after homeowners sought their help replacing the bad wallboard. Because mortgage companies require homeowners to insure their properties, they are then at risk of foreclosure, yet no law prevents the cancellations.
''This is like the small wave that's out on the horizon that's going to continue to grow and grow until it becomes a tsunami,'' said Florida attorney David Durkee, who represents hundreds of homeowners who are suing builders, suppliers and manufacturers over the drywall. ''This is going to become critical mass very shortly.''
During the height of the U.S. housing boom, with building materials in short supply, American construction companies imported millions of pounds of Chinese-made drywall because it was abundant and cheap. An Associated Press analysis of shipping records found that more than 500 million pounds of Chinese gypsum board was imported between 2004 and 2008 -- enough to have built tens of thousands of homes. They are heavily concentrated in the Southeast, especially Florida.IT'S COMING... THANK YOU CHINA!