A Sextet of Waterlogged First Ward Townhomes Leads to Lawsuit Against Urban Living, 2 Building Companies

johnson-st-lawsuit-repairs

Urban Living was added as a defendant last month to a lawsuit filed in February by 8 plaintiffs against 2 companies run by Saeed Qazi and Saleem Qazi, both of whom are also being sued individually.

The suit revolves around 6 adjacent homes in the First Ward — 1919 through 1929 Johnson St. — built around 2008 by the Qazis and their companies, Zenith Urban Homes and Zenith Signature Homes. Once built, the homes were exclusively marketed and sold by Urban Living.

***

1919-johnson-st-urban-lawsuit

The suit contends that Saeed and Saleem Qazi presented themselves, and were presented by Urban Living, as having over 10 years experience as builders “who stand behind their high-quality product.” According to the suit, that is “materially false” and “designed to entice buyers into purchasing defective properties.”

johnson-st-lawsuit-deck-view

The suit continues:

“The Qazi Defendants were woefully inept at home construction, and they built numerous latent defects into the townhomes at issue in this suit, such as installing exterior balcony flooring with no metal flashing against the wall, a critical and required waterproofing component that protects the structure against water intrusion.”

According to the tipster, today, “Some of the homes are currently under repair which involves, among other things, reinforcement of structural components and replacement of large portions of stucco.”

These defects were allegedly present in all 6 of the homes in this development.

The plaintiffs contend that the Qazi Defendants committed fraud in presenting themselves as experienced builders. Some of those plaintiffs further that claim to include Urban Living — and have added claims of conspiracy and violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act — for Urban Living’s alleged role in aiding and abetting the Qazi Defendants in this alleged scheme.

The tipster says that the Johnson St. properties were recently scrubbed from the “past developments” section of the Zenith Urban Homes website.

Urban Living was added to the lawsuit’s third amended petition on November 19th and has not yet filed an answer. The plaintiffs are seeking damages of not less than $200,000 nor more than $1,000,000.

Photos: Swamplot inbox (construction work); Har.com

Sawyer Heights Lawsuit

54 Comment

  • I’ve yet to see an Urban Living home that I like; they are quite good at removing every single living thing standing over 6 inches on a lot.

  • Buyers BEWARE. 99.9% of the NC looks good from the curb. I wouldn’t buy,much less live in any of the NC. And UL is selling some of the shoddiest new builds in Houston.

  • Urban Living is not a proper business, it’s a play toy for it’s Persian playboy owner, anything they touch is total crap and are full of conflict of interest partnerships. They even sue their clients if they don’t buy through them. If other developers and builders won’t defend them, you know it’s bad.

    Also, whenever tells me they’re “Persian”, I always ask them “Are you a Cat or a Rug?”.

  • This makes my day. Zenith is one of their developers I would never buy from. To be a fly on the wall at Urban.

  • “Persian playboy owner…” LOL, sounds like what use to be known as “Euro-trash” back in the Elan days.

  • Is anyone going to mention, every single product/finish comes from China? Early in my career, I (naively) helped design concept material boards for UL, that were then shipped to China for total hack job duplications that would become their actual construction materials. Never again.

  • Wow, someone is suing Urban Living? Tell that person the line forms to the right…

  • I thought their reputation was well known. And don’t these buyers have inspections done? Perhaps the house was priced in accordance with what was delivered. I’m sure there were better more ‘premium’ options that also cost more, so the buyers went with cheaper.
    .
    I don’t want to defend urban living but this suit is likely crap. Everyone today seems to want to run to the courts. The only one that will ‘win’ this suit are the lawyers. If only we had a loser pays to keep our courts free of this stuff.

  • FWIW, the phone number and address on Zenith Urban’s website is the same for a company named ICONstrux Design & Build which as also sold through UL.
    .
    http://iconstruxdb.com/
    .
    Same designers/builders?

  • I have seen the no flashing trick before in a lawsuit against a town home developer. The developer tried to
    GC the job and admitted that he was in over his head. He claims that crooked subs failed to do the work properly. I always wondered whether installing metal flashings was such a chore that there was enough of a motivation to try to skimp to make a few extra bucks. Given the fact that it is pretty obvious to the eventual buyer (water will flow right into the house in a heavy rain when there is no flashing), it would have to be some pretty galling corruption to try to get away with it.

  • This article says the defects were latent, Jackson – which means an inspection would not have uncovered the defect.

  • My god, doesn’t this town have building inspections?

  • Hey, Swamplot, your lead says “Sawyer Heights…….” Sawyer Heights is not really a neighborhood or a recognized area but a marketing thing created by developers. The development in question is a few blocks west of Sawyer Street and it is in First Ward, an historic area of the city.

  • It’s always the usual suspects. I’m starting to notice a pattern. Buyer Beware.

  • I was just about to tap my elbow and drop on in, but it looks like I already missed the dog pile.

  • Commonsense, you must be a riot at parties, where the sheets are not for the tables.

  • I have seen the no flashing trick before in a lawsuit against a town home developer. The developer tried to
    GC the job and admitted that he was in over his head. He claims that crooked subs failed to do the work properly.
    _________________________
    Sounds like the builder formerly known as Waterhill.
    ……………..

    To say every builder that Urban Living represents is shoddy is unfair but they do have quite a few of them.

    They represent some decent small and midsized builders but it seems like their main model has been to procure money from wealthy foreigners by selling them lots, hooking them up with their own designers and subs, putting together marketing packages and representing them on the sale. This is why so many of the builders projects look so similar…they have the same designers and fixtures. The issue comes up when those foreign investors assume their GC’s and subs are doing the work correctly (or don’t care), but have no real idea because they’re down in Mexico or the Middle East some such place.

    It’s a great deal for Urban since they make money at every stage and the “developers” have been doing well with it lately because of the skyrocketing housing prices. Unfortunately, it’s the unenlightened consumer who doesn’t get proper inspections throughout the process that can end up being the victim when these projects do go wrong.

  • Progress. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

  • I agree that Urban Living is not the best builder, but they’re way better than Martha Turner and John Daughtery. Keller Williams is the only builder that I can think of that’s worse than Urban Living. That guy doesn’t know screw driver from a pipe wrench! If you’re looking for value, I”d buy a REMAX home.

  • I don’t think the problem is just limited to builders represented by Urban Living either. Builders cutting corners is pretty much a given these days, and an inspection will only catch so much. I wish these folks luck, but Bob Perry did quite a number on the legislature over the years to the point where the home buyer has very little recourse.

  • Diggity, that business model you describe is called “vertical intergration”. John D. Rockefeller kinda pioneered the idea with Standard Oil.
    To the other poster, you’re correct, Urban Living is not a builder, and would likely describe themselves as a realtor. However,, their business model of exclusive partnerships, exclusive listings, and controlling much of the design work comes with a heavy conflict of interest, which is a nice way of saying they don’t have a buyer’s best interests at heart.

  • Urban Living IS a builder for all intents and purposes, well more accurately a developer. They don’t only represent builders, they enter into joint ventures with builders and random people who are builder wannabes. They also arrange financing (sometimes daddy’s money) and also make the builders install UL’s crappy chinese sourced hardware and appliances.

    @shannon, yes those parties are epic! But I stopped going after my Mexican wife cut the eyeholes wrong for the entire posse.

  • Yikes. Glad they went after the contractors and not the designers. Then again, UL uses it’s own in house designers I think, so I guess they are kind of being sued.
    .
    If it were my house I’d not only sue, but try to get Mike Holmes or someone to fix the mistakes and put it on TV. That’d show ’em. Of course then I’m sure UL would sue me…

  • #urbanShill: First, your hashtag use looks foolish. Second, saying the same thing on multiple comments makes you come across as a lame company spokesman. Third, UL and the other brokers you mentioned are far different in respects to their involvement with the building of them homes they sell. I think you know that to be the case but are being intentionally obtuse.

  • It’s not just the Urban Living townhomes that have this issue. Bedford Falls built by InTown Homes just south of the 610 Loop has multiple townhomes that have had structural repairs due to woefully inadequate waterproofing of the rooftop decks. After hearing about Urban Living having the same issue, I wonder how many others have the same latent defects.

  • So defects like no flashing didn’t show up for 6, almost 7, years??? Come on. This lawsuit sounds like garbage. I know people on this site hate new builds and stuco, but when you can only a find a few lawsuits (and some highly dubious, like this one) over the past 15 years concerning the many thousands of townhomes built in the last 15 years, I think you should re-evaluate your hatred.

  • 1st- URBANLIVINGISNOTABUILDER= Urban Living Shill.
    2nd- UL shouldn’t be allowed in the same sentence as Turner or Daugherty. The latter are professional, respected realty companies.

  • Wham bam thank you mam is the motto for Urban Living.

  • @Cody.

    You’re wrong. I’m not a spokesperson for UL. I’m a builder that happens to be represented by them. I have no JV agreement with them. I found my own land. I developed it myself. I use my own architect. I buy all my own materials from all my own vendors. They ONLY REPRESENT ME as an agent. It was a strategic business decision based on the sheer number of listings and potential buyers they control in the market. It’s a decision I would probably not make again, but that’s beside the point. The posters on here are simply incorrect in their blanket accusations of UL. Do they have JV arrangements with other builders? Perhaps. But the way the posters on here speak in absolutes, and without knowledge of the reality of the situation, makes them ignorant, and cast a negative light on my business.

  • @jost: “Sawyer Heights is not really a neighborhood or a recognized area but a marketing thing created by developers.”
    .
    Pretty much all neighborhoods are marketing things created by developers. Houston itself was a marketing thing created by developers, the Allen brothers.

  • @Htownproud: The case I was familiar with went to trial and was judgment for the plaintiffs. They had been in their homes for a few years before they started having problems from the flashing. The main thing they noticed was rot, which took years to develop to the point that it was visible from the outside. There were piles of construction defect cases with town home builders in the 2000s that got buried in the Residential Construction Commission arbitration proceedings. But the thing is that it is not hard at all to build a town home. The kind of things that are being screwed up are so basic that I really wonder whether it is just simply a matter of pure stupidity rather than a builder cutting corners. Building in Houston without putting in metal flashing is like parking your car on the street with the windows open. installing metal flashing is not expensive. I just cannot imagine a builder being so screwed for cash that they would try to cut that kind of corner. Unfortunately, I think it really is a case of builders being that stupid that they forget to do it or have incompetent/crooked subs who blow it off in order to blast off to the next job.

  • Hey, #URBANLIVINGISNOTABUILDER: Are you responsible for the new UL developments on 26th Street between Ella and Bevis? One currently under construction and one with phase 1 completed?

  • It’s always satisfying seeing someone anonymously shilling for a company actually confirm later that, yes, he has ties to the company.

  • Diggity, that business model you describe is called “vertical intergration”. John D. Rockefeller kinda pioneered the idea with Standard Oil.
    _________________________________
    Gee…thanks for the business lecture! :)

  • Stucco shoeboxes, you’re the one.. You make rainstorms lot’s of fun.. Stucco shoeboxes I’m not particularly fond of you, douche douche de douche..

  • Old School, a lot of this boils down to your last sentence. I think the builder is either unable or unwilling to supervise these guys. The types of subs that work in these developments will walk all over the lazy/uninformed person. The margins are pretty tight as well so the cheapest sub usually gets the work. Now how could there possibly be problems?

  • @Progg……my “tie” to the company is beside the point. The point was that you morons are talking about Urban Living being a builder and a developer, and it’s patently false. I’m not defending them (not sure why they even need defense….since…..THEY’RE NOT A BUILDER), i’m simply pointing out that every person that posts to the contrary is fucking wrong.

  • @Shannon,
    I can confirm that commonsense is a riot at parties. No ghost costumes were involved however. (actually it was halloween, maybe there were?)

  • @caneco, fistbumb. That’s was somewhat of a bizzare encounter, meeting another swampy in real life, yet with anonimity of a Halloween costume.

  • Now we can see why #URBAN. . . . (SHILL) needs someone to be their broker. It’s all about people skills, and *amazingly*, he/she/they cannot do better than UL.

  • Yeh yeh, I know the line. UL is purely a realtor, nothing more, nothing less. That’s why I see countless massive signs on lots being developed that show both the UL logo with the logo of whichever one-and-done builder that happens to be named for a particular project. Funny, I never see the same kind of signs for Marther Turner or REMAX.

  • #UrbanHashtag: No offense my man, but you don’t seem to be the type of builder I’d want to buy a house from. You seem pretty combative and hostile. Tone it down a bit… There were better ways to make your point.

  • #URBANLIVINGISNOTABUILDERButPerhapsHasJointVenturesWithOtherBuildersButIMeanWhatDoIKnow?
    #CASTANEGATIVELIGHTONMYBUSINESS
    #YOUMORONS

  • 95% of the people commenting haven’t a clue. I too am a builder. Urban Living lists my homes. I can’t speak for other builders they represent. I have my own designers, engineers and purchase all materials from local vendors. As builders, we have to abide by COH building codes and standards. My family and I have been building in the Houston area for 20+ years and are very proud of our product. For everyone to judge every project with a UL sign in front of it is just ignorant. Quit posting about what you think you know. They do a great job representing our product. They are not a builder. They try to appeal to builders by making it a one stop shop. Just because they offer assistance when designing a home and choosing finishes it does not mean every builder hires them to do so.

  • I wish the UL defenders would post under their real names. I wonder whether either of them (assuming they are plural, as opposed to singular) is Princeton Homes.

  • @#HoustonBuilder
    Oh wait, did you just say that UL “offers assistance when designing a home and choosing finishes”? Well I’m sure all realtors do that….
    .
    Since you’ve been building for 20 + years and are proud of your product, I’m sure you’ll have no problem divulging your company’s name. I’ll be waiting here.

  • @Mel – Ha ha ha ha ha… Princeton just restarted a build in my neighborhood that’s been sitting idle for a year or two after getting red tagged for building a 9′ fence without a permit. The porta potty stayed there the whole time, getting gang tagged and used by bums. Now they’ve surrounded the whole property with covered chain link so no one can see what shoddy work they’re doing until it’s too late.

  • I’m really surprised that none of these builders defending UL on here have said “You know maybe these guys aren’t the best option for representing my property seeing as their public image is so irrevocably tarnished”. Seriously, if they are just realtors, that’s what they bring to the table for you. That’s what they are selling. Reputation. Image. Respect. Access. If they lack these things, which, at least in this little microcosm of the realty world, they absolutely do, then what exactly are they doing for you? And why are you on here trying to fix their damaged reputation? That’s basically their only real job if they are just sales reps.

    I mean, ok, if you are locked into a contract with them then maybe it makes sense to do some damage control on their part, I don’t know enough about real estate law to understand how those contracts might work. But you guys seem to be missing he point with your whole “they are not builders” comment. It doesn’t matter if they don’t build the property. K-Mart doesn’t build all of its stuff either, they just sell it. But they make choices about what they sell, and the general theme of their sales is that they sell fly-by night poorly built houses.

  • The majority of realtors/ brokers inside the Loop that have been in the business more than 10 years avoid Urban Living like the plague. Their reputation has long been that they represent the very worst “builders ” and unfortunately many people have been bulldozed by their slick, used car salesman tactics at the open houses. The reputable builders have long since distanced themselves from U.l

  • How in gods name did the city inspectors green tag these structures during the build out? I think someone should also be suing the city. We are in the middle of a 2 year remodel – addition at our house. The inspectors are and have been all over our ass …….I just don’t see how this happened

  • I think @MrEction said it best. Urban Living has some serious image issues. Perception is all that matters and that’s partly what you are paying the agent for.

  • UL threatens to sue all of their clients. They stalk them online (private locked down facebook accounts even), threaten to sue them if they don’t take their negative post down, etc. Why do you think there is so little information about them online? Their builders are just as shady. They also threaten to sue you, lie, and even get in your face. You’ve already agreed to buy the home and by the time you realize you are getting screwed, you have already put in nonrefundable upgrades and home prices in the surrounding area have already gone up 50k before you even get to closing. So then you’re stuck. One of the subs told me that Ul, the builders, inspectors, everyone…are all in collusion together and he gave me tons of examples. You can’t even sue these bastards because Bob Perry worked with Rick Perry back in 09 to basically get rid of ALL homebuyer recourse. And then the warranty companies are just as bad. Apparently the builders pay $1k for this structural warranty they give you…but the warranty company knows they won’t ever have to pay a dime. Think about it. $1k for ten years on a home over 300k? You can be as bright as Einstein and still not be able to catch them on everything. And even if you do…there’s not a damn thing you can do about it and they know it.

  • these are the same A$$holes destroying Montrose at the moment.

  • I see that I am a little late to a lot of these comments – but the long and the short of it is.
    A realtor has a competent party duty/portion to their buyers/sellers by law. This is why they recommend you get a private inspector when purchasing a home – if they do not, they can retain some possible liability.

    Urban Living’s whole business plan is basically selling to builders that they can bring a builder an investor(s) that will fund their building. Urban plays both sides of this card collecting money from everyone, sellers of land, buyers of land, investors, builders then buyers & sellers again. How they do this isn’t as black & white as it should be either. As well as they are taking on the selections/others portions of Most/not All of the builders…
    By doing all of these things combined they are & should take responsibility. They are playing Builder/Developer behind closed doors. They are also making more money than the builders/developers they way they have it set up – which maybe while some people either overlook or choice not to do the best building practices. Some can be a mistake, but this is what will be fought out in court if mistake or willful…

    Urban also keeps everything in house which I understand is good for business – but it isn’t transparent where you may have a buyer who’d buy a different builder/other – but is pushed to their in house builders/developers bc they’ll make money as buyer & sellers agent. This is another problem I have – bc most buyers have total blind faith in their realtors on this (as stated 1st paragraph); but not seeing behind the veil.

    There are many good local – small & larger builders inside Houston – that have a passion for building. As well as many good realtors & realty firms. *My first suggestion would be – if buying/building and you can not have total access to the builder – but is buffeted by the realtor/other, there’s typically a reason for that. You should be able to have flexibility in the build & sell/others – if these things are not happening via by the realtor or build; a red flag should go off…

    I am a local small builder who takes pride in my work & industry, and builds in this area. I have turned down Urban’s offers of the Grandeur & Beauty of selling homes or bringing investors to grow a business or make money for the same reasons I stated above. *I as well as many builders in Houston want to build a good product at a value & educate each buyer – there are many good builders/realtors as well as bad. The bad just get publicized more. I would tell everyone to listen to your inner person/that gut feeling you get when wanting to purchase a home/other…