Lawsuit alleges homes' water pipes not insulated

A photo provided by the law firm indicating where a bathroom pipe burst in a Winslow home during the winter.
A photo provided by the law firm indicating where a bathroom pipe burst in a Winslow home during the winter.
Posted: July 19, 2013

Robert and Thea Long moved into their Sicklerville home nine years ago, the first owners of the newly constructed house with shiny hardwood floors.

What they did not know until last winter's bitter cold snap was that the water pipes on the outside walls were not insulated and therefore were more likely to freeze, according to a lawsuit the couple filed Wednesday.

"I walked into the house and there was water everywhere. And the water was still running," said Robert Long, 65, recalling the mess he found one Sunday. He called a plumber, who 30 minutes later stopped the massive leak by cutting the supply at the curb.

"You buy a new house and you expect it at least to be built to code. And it wasn't built to code," Long said, describing the Fairmount model in the Wilton's Corner development.

The lawsuit, filed as a potential class-action complaint, alleges that the Longs' home on Colt's Neck Drive was built by NVR Inc., doing business as Ryan Homes, based in Virginia with offices in Voorhees. The lack of pipe insulation caused the Longs and several other homeowners to experience significant damage when their pipes froze, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit seeks compensation for those damaged and has asked that Ryan Homes be compelled to advise all those who purchased in the development of 175 houses about the alleged defect. The company should correct or pay to correct the problem before others are damaged, the lawsuit said.

A spokesperson for NVR said it was the company's policy not to comment on pending litigation.

The Longs' attorney, Stephen P. DeNittis, said homeowners have no way of knowing whether their pipes are insulated.

"The code violation alleged in this case is particularly troublesome because it involves unprotected pipes hidden inside an exterior wall," DeNittis said. "The homeowners have no way of knowing about the lack of insulation unless the pipes freeze and burst."

This past winter was particularly cold with several intervals of freezing weather. DeNittis said homeowners should be protected.

"We are asking that Ryan Homes notify class members of this defect immediately and that Ryan Homes agree to repair this problem for all affected homeowners now, before winter comes again," DeNittis said.

Robert Long said that his homeowners' insurance covered most of the damage but that the inconvenience could have been avoided. Several years ago, he said, an outside spigot burst, but he did not think much of it.

When the bathroom pipe burst, he said, the plumber told him about several similar situations within the same development. That's when he contacted an attorney.

"The house was in an uproar for 10 days," he said, noting hardwood and drywall had to be replaced where water damaged walls in several areas in and around the bathroom.


Contact Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838, bboyer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @BBBoyer.

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