House Arrest

A Sun City couple beat Del Webb in court. So why is their house still a mess?

"I hated people who would sue me for stupid things. I always tried to fix stuff," he says. "Well, that's all I wanted Del Webb to do. But they just wouldn't do it."

It's a situation Ron Kaleta knows all too well. As New Times first reported in March, Kaleta filed suit against the company after cracks and mold began showing up in his mother's home, which is also in Sun City.

Bernice Kaleta, who turned 90 last week, hasn't been able to live in her home for four years. After suffering a heart attack that her son believes is connected to the mold problems, Bernice Kaleta has been in poor health. She is now on hospice.

Alana Machnicki
Bernice Kaleta hasn't been able to live in her house for four years.
courtesy of Ron Kaleta
Bernice Kaleta hasn't been able to live in her house for four years.

The company fought the Kaletas for four years, three of them in court. Del Webb only settled in the last month, says the Kaletas' lawyer, Jim Eckley, and after extensive media attention. (After New Times' series in March, TV news reporters came calling.)

Kaleta, a retired schoolteacher, found the litigation grueling. "These people are just unbelievable," he says of Del Webb. "I don't think anyone realizes all the shenanigans that go on."

Despite the Does' torment, and despite the Kaletas' years of suffering, some good news may finally be on the way. As New Times reported in March, the Kaleta lawsuit brought to light an explosive allegation from a former Del Webb subcontractor.

Jim Bebout, owner of Bebout Concrete, laid foundations for the company for years. But when Del Webb tried to blame him for shoddy work, he fired back, claiming that the builder had told him to ignore its engineering reports and ordered cheaper foundations.

When Bebout suggested a few simple measures to protect homeowners, he claims that Del Webb resisted — even though the measures would only cost a few hundred dollars per house.

The Kaletas' lawyer, Eckley, was shocked by the allegations. And he believes that the Arizona Department of Real Estate was also horrified. He's talked to investigators there; he says that they have since launched an investigation.

After all, that department supervises the engineering reports that builders must perform before beginning construction. The engineers are required to test the soil, as well as recommend ways to mitigate any problems on site.

If the department finds that the builders deviated from the engineers' recommendations, without expressly informing homebuyers, Eckley says that Del Webb may have to refund any payments made by its buyers — plus 10 percent interest, plus attorneys' fees.

Mary Utley, the department's spokeswoman, says she can't confirm the existence of an investigation as a matter of policy. But Eckley is more than confident.

"They're looking at it as fraud," he says.

For Raymond Doe, of course, that's cold comfort. He went to the regulators 10 months ago, and they let him down. Now, he says, he's on his own.

But he's not feeling sorry for himself. After months of trying to solve things amicably and avoid litigation, Doe is ready to rumble.

"We're going to go for the jugular," he says.

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