By CBS News Investigates Intern Monsurat Adebanjo
The federal government is failing to help thousands of residents nationwide whose homes have been destroyed by defective Chinese drywall and appears to not have a good grasp of how widespread the problem really is according to a new report by the investigative group ProPublica and the Florida newspaper, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Court and property records complied by the ProPublica, the Herald-Tribune and CBS News show that at least 6,944 homeowners in 18 states have bad drywall that is rotting their homes and in some cases causing health problems. But the federal agency in charge of investigating the issue, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), says it's only received 3,731 complaints from residents in 40 states plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico. The biggest discrepancy is in Lee County, Florida where our data shows 1,546 affected homes---CPSC records only list 522 cases in Lee County.
In addition to appearing to have an incomplete tally of affected homeowners, the U.S. government also lacks the authority to force foreign companies to recall defective products, reimburse consumers for harm done, or even provide the most basic information in the manufacturing of the product, ProPublica reports. The CPSC has yet to figure out what in the foreign drywall is capable of corroding electrical wiring and making people ill.
In 2009, several lawmakers held hearings to introduce legislation that would aid homeowners. But, the Foreign Manufacturer's Legal Accountability Act, the piece of legislation considered most likely to pass, was never brought to the floor for a vote.
The government's failure to resolve the problem has left homeowners on their own, many of whom are now facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. The cost of repairing an average-sized house usually runs about $100,000. Left with little option, some of the families have simply abandoned their homes.
As CBS News reported last year, thousands of Americans have been forced out of their homes due to defective drywall, which has been tied to both American and Chinese manufacturers.