Fake Chinese drywall notices placed on 5 homes
Phony warnings about Chinese drywall are appearing on some foreclosed and vacant homes in Cape Coral, according to the Lee County Health Department.
The fraudulent notices may be an attempt by con artists to solicit bogus services, but officials contend they do not know for sure why the notices are showing up in the city.
“At this point we don’t know why they are there,” said Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokesperson for the health department.
The yellow notices with black print are being affixed to homes, stating that the home was inspected by the department and found to contain defective drywall. Notices contain no logo or contact information, but they do include an illegible signature.
According to the health department, these types of notices are never released by local or state health agencies.
“We urge residents to be on the alert for this type of fraud as these notices are not associated with the Lee County Health Department or the Florida Department of Health,” said Dr. Judith Hartner, director of the Lee County Health Department.
So far the notices have only been identified in Cape Coral by Realtors and citizens who have contacted the health department inquiring about the drywall. James-Mesloh said four notices have been spotted and another was reported Tuesday afternoon.
Local thieves have been employing deceptive practices for years to cash in on natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, as well as other building and construction scams.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum warned residents in April that homeowners were being offered bogus test kits, inspections, special cleaners and ozone generators. Unfortunately, nothing short of gutting a house will eliminate the defective drywall.
Problems with Chinese drywall first went public in March. The toxic supply had been used by builders during the construction boom. Other than the corrosion of metal items in the home and a strong odor of sulphur, some families claim it causes respiratory problems.
Officials studying the presence of defective drywall in the Cape found it was present in many of the homes built between 2004 and 2008. Residents can identify the drywall in question if it is stamped “Made in China.”
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson requested tests of the defective drywall found in local homes. The tests found that it contains sulfur not found in U.S.-produced drywall at levels 10 times higher than its U.S. counterpart and other organic compounds found in acrylic paint.
“We now know there are three things in there that aren’t in other drywall samples,” Nelson said. “In the end, I think all this stuff is going to have to be ripped out.”
More testing will be carried out in the following months by the Environmental Protection Agency. Nelson said Tuesday that he estimates 36,000 Florida homes contain tainted drywall.
Later this week, the Senate Commerce Committee will open congressional hearings related to the toxic drywall found in multiple states.
The Florida Department of Health stated that the drywall is not a health hazard, but recommends that any Cape residents who are experiencing health problems related to their home should contact their doctor.
Anyone who has found a notice about Chinese drywall should contact the Cape Coral Police Department at 574-3223 or the Attorney General’s fraud hotline at (866) 9-NO-SCAM (966-7226).