My Toll Experience

Other Homeowners


I’m sure that Toll Brothers will assert that my house is an exception and that most of the houses they build are of a much higher quality, but from what I have determined, nothing could be further from the truth.  I have been researching this since 2003, when I started to write a book about my experiences with Toll Brothers, and I have found more dissatisfied Toll Brothers homeowners than satisfied ones, more instances of poor quality than of high quality.  In the course of this research, I have spoken with several dozen attorneys who have represented plaintiffs in lawsuits against Toll – and the number of lawsuits that have been filed is substantial.  I have spoken with several dozen engineers, both structural and civil, who have inspected Toll Brothers homes and / or acted as expert witnesses in lawsuits brought against Toll.  I have spoken with home inspectors from Arizona to Massachusetts regarding their impressions of Toll Brothers “quality” and the number of homeowners who have complained about shoddy workmanship on Toll’s part.  Most recently, I have written letters to the state consumer protection agencies of every state in which Toll builds and have requested, in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, copies of all complaints that have been filed against Toll Brothers.  The results of this research has made it very clear that many Toll Brothers houses are only slightly less flawed than my own.  To wit:


1.  In a single Toll Brothers development in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, 80% of the homeowners have filed complaints with the local building officials.  One of these homeowners told me that she has been waiting five years for Toll to repair her floors.  Another told me that she had been waiting more than three years for Toll to make the needed repairs, and was ready to “give up.”  I told her that that was exactly what Toll was hoping for. 


2.  Because of Toll’s poor construction and their refusal to follow up and make repairs, Toll is no longer allowed to build in Tennessee, nor in two townships in Southeastern PA.  And these are just the ones I know about!  (If anyone reading this knows of any others, please email me at Ellen.nevins@yahoo.com and tell me where they are.  Thanks.)

 
3.  As I indicated above, several months ago I contacted the Department of Consumer Protection in each of the states in which Toll builds, and asked for copies of all complaints that had been lodged against Toll, in accordance with the FOIA.  The responses were appalling: in Maryland alone, there were 2242 pages of closed complaints against Toll Brothers on the books.  (State officials would not reveal how many are still open.)  A listing of the Maryland complaints is attached, as is the list of Illinois complaints.  
  Many complaints have also been filed in Virginia, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, and almost every Toll homeowner I have encountered here in NJ is extremely dissatisfied.

4.  Not all of these complaints deal with poor construction.  A number of complaints have been lodged against Toll for refusing to return deposits after denying mortgages to potential homebuyers.  (See Maryland complaints.)  According to one source, between 2006 and 2011 Toll Brothers collected $123,000,000 -- yes, $123 million  -- in forfeited deposits from prospective homebuyers, making this their largest source of income during the downturn of the housing market.  It appears that Toll Brothers has been assuring potential homebuyers that they (the homebuyers) will qualify for certain of Toll’s mortgage programs, in an effort to induce these buyers to go to contract.  In many cases, Toll is then denying the mortgages, but refusing to return the deposits. (See How Toll Survived the Housing Slump.)  In at least one instance, in Florida, Toll granted a mortgage to a homebuyer and then rescinded it.  Not only did they then refuse to return the homebuyer’s deposit, but they also sued her for the balance of the down payment – despite the fact that they had already sold the house for which she had contracted to someone else.  More recently, Toll has sued a Pennsylvania couple for the full purchase price after the couple was unable to sell their existing home and had to back out of the contract.  And according to an article in the New York Times, Bob Toll is planning to sue his own niece, Wendy Toll Topkis, daughter of his brother and business partner Bruce, because she has decided not to go through with her purchase of a new Toll Brothers home in Florida.  

5.  While at a party at a friend’s house, I met a woman who had bought new construction from Toll in Langhorne, PA.  I asked what she thought of her Toll Brothers house.  Her reply: “Well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing I sleep with the windows open, or I would be dead.”  Apparently, there were problems with carbon monoxide in the units throughout her sub-division.  She and the other owners in her sub-division filed a class action suit against Toll.    

6.  Toll sometimes fails to pay engineers, builders and, yes, even lawyers for services they will need only once, and then challenges these people to sue in order to collect – knowing of course that Toll can outspend them. They have done this to one engineer with whom I have spoken, and also with one of my own witnesses, an area builder: they were to pay him for the time he spent being deposed, but despite having been ordered by the court to do so, they have not bothered. They also failed to pay one of the lawyers in Virginia who helped develop their in-house mortgage program.

7.  Because my living room ceiling is collapsing from the constant leaking, I filed a claim with my insurance company, in order to get it fixed.  The claims adjuster contacted me to set up a date and time for the inspection, but at no time did I tell him who the builder of my house was.  Yet when he arrived, and I stood just outside the front door waiting to greet him, he took a long, hard look at the front of my house, and said: “Typical shoddy Toll Brothers workmanship.”  He then told me a joke that was going around the insurance industry:       

                Question: “Do you know why Toll Brothers builds houses that last 10 years?

                 Answer:  “Because that’s how long the warranty lasts.”

8.  A TV reporter who lives in a Toll-built high-rise in Manhattan has advised me that virtually every tenant in her building is disgusted with the poor workmanship that went into their homes, and they are considering filing a class action suit.  She reports that homeowners in two other Toll-built high-rises in Manhattan are equally disgusted, as are homebuyers in Toll-built high-rises in Hoboken and Jersey City.  (See Related Articles.)

9.  A friend who lives in Tewksbury, NJ told me just last week that everyone she knows who bought one of Toll's very high-end townhouses in Tewskbury is very dissatisfied with the houses they received, and most of the townhouses have serious problems.

10.  As I mentioned earlier, when I complained to the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services about the problems I am having with water and mold in my basement, I was told by a state official that problems with water and mold in basements of Toll Brothers houses are common across the state.  I have since been advised by homeowners all over this country that many of them, too, have serious problems with water in their basements, and with infestations of mold - which renders their houses essentially unmarketable.  This appears to be one of the most common problems facing Toll Brothers homeowners everywhere.  In fact, Toll has recently been found guilty of 600 violations of the Clean Water Act at 370 of their sites in 23 states, which means that literally thousands of Toll Brothers houses nationwide are affected. (See Related Articles.)  It is also an expensive problem to fix, which I suspect is why Toll appears to routinely ignore the problem.  (Sadly, the current administration is enabling this - Toll was fined a mere $741,000, or $1235 per violation, under the terms of the Consent Decree issued by the Justice Department.  Might the fact that Bob Toll served on Obama's finance committee -- and in all likeihood, contributed generously to Obama's campaign -- be a factor here?) 

And according to one former Toll employee, who agreed to be interviewed on camera, Toll knows these problems exist when they sell the houses -- but make no effort to fix them even then.  His primary responsibility as a Toll employee was to pump out basements immediately before the prospective owners closed on them!  (He also offers some interesting insights into how Toll manages to get COs for these houses despite the code violations.)   To see the interview, go to https://vimeo.com/51718954.

 11.  Even federal prosecutors are not exempt from Toll’s arrogance and indifference.  A federal prosecutor in Philadelphia bought a Toll Brothers home in Malvern, PA, that is nearly as flawed as mine.  She reports that many of the other houses in her sub-division are equally flawed.  Toll is playing the same games with her as they do with everyone else: refusing to acknowledge the problems or make any repairs.  I truly believe that this is how Toll stays in business: by refusing to repair the seriously flawed houses they build and then making lawsuits against them prohibitively expensive – NOT by building quality houses.  In fact, Toll VP Gary Mayo essentially admitted this to a man who bought a house from Toll in Las Vegas, and then had to sue Toll to get his deposit back when Toll failed to complete the house.  An interview with this would-be homeowner is included in the video I mentioned earlier. 

12.  In early 2009, after the gag order that had been imposed by the 2004 settlement was finally lifted, I placed a blurb on the internet asking other Toll Brothers homeowners to share their experiences with me.  To date, I have received more than 600 responses; I still receive two or three each week.  So far, every response I have received has been damning.
 
13.  As I mentioned earlier, in 2010 and 2011 I interviewed a number of other Toll Brothers homeowners along the East Coast to get their experiences on video.  To a person, they indicated that not only were they themselves very dissatisfied with the homes they had gotten from Toll, but almost everyone else in their respective subdivisions was equally dissatisfied.  (One group of homeowners in Yardley, PA, vented their frustrations withToll's refusal to fix things by making a pinata with Bob Toll's photo on it and having a contest to see who could smack the pinata hard enough to break it.  The winner got a prize.)  You can view the video at https://vimeo.com/55679581.

14. Most recently, Toll homeowners  in the Estates at Princeton Junction have filed a class action suit against Toll, alleging serious defects, lack of quality, and fraud.  More than 500 homeowners are involved.  To read more about this, click here.   And homeowners at an Adult community built by Toll in Shippack, PA report many problems and a great deal of dissatisfaction.  

15.  Even the reports published by J. D. Power refute Toll’s claims that they built quality and provide excellent customer service.  If you check the reports for 2008, 2009, and 2010, you will see that Toll Brothers consistently has been rated average or below in almost every category in almost every area of the country in which they build.  (No  current data is available.)

16.  I spoke with my insurance agent about the many problems with my Toll Brothers house.  Her response: "We have had nothing but problems with Toll Brothers houses."  For your own sake, talk to your own insurance agent about his or her experience with Toll Brothers houses before buying one! 

17.  Last Friday, by accident, I came across a family that has a 4-year-old Toll Brothers house in Hillsborough, NJ.  The environmental problems within the  structure are so bad that all three of the young children living in the house have to wear respirators in order to breathe properly. As usual, Toll Brothers refuses to do a thing about it.

18.  Get ready for some updates, folks!  I have a lot of new articles to update, and I just got back in touch with the Attorneys General in each state where Toll builds.  As soon as I have the latest complaint counts, I will publish them.  Meanwhile, I continue to get emails / phone calls almost daily from other dissatisfied Toll Brothers homeowners.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK, folks, to avoid ending up like us!


    I truly believe that Toll’s attitude toward their customers can best be summed up by a remark made by Michael Donnelly.  When advised by one of the Toll salespersons that buyers in my sub-division were complaining about the quality they observed during construction, Donnelly retorted: “Who cares?  We’ve got their money.”  More than anything else I could tell you that seems to sum up Toll’s philosophy in a nutshell: grab the money and RUN.  Once Toll has gotten what they want from you, be it money, a service of some kind, or a gag order, they clearly have no more use for you, and you are on your own. (See Related Articles.)

       

     

 

 

 

 

  
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