Iraq War vet squares off against Crown Communities

An injured Iraq war veteran blames his neighborhood developer for leaving him with a backyard he says is too dangerous for his service dog.

He's not the only angry homeowner in Slater Mill of Douglasville.

Crown Properties of Conyers built the neighborhood, marketed and priced largely for first-time homeowners. Two years later and the warranty now expired, this ground war continues to drag on.

"I don't want to fight anymore," retired staff sergeant Steve Hammond said. "I didn't come down here to fight with these-- I just want to buy a damn house."

The fight continues, a war blast in Iraq left him with memory and balance and speech issues, so volunteers trained his beagle mix Rock to be a service dog.

We watched Steve play with Rock.

"Rocko! Come here buddy! He can't even see me now," Hammond pointed out.

That's because Rock developed diabetes, won't eat, and has started to go blind.

"I used to walk with him and he would nudge me a little bit if I got unbalanced," Hammond remembered. "And he would stop when I stop. But he can't see. He doesn't do that no more. So yeah... he helps me."

Steve and his wife Lisa called around to see about getting another service dog. But when the trainers asked about the house, Steve says he had to tell them the truth.

His backyard, he says, is dangerous for a dog.

"He's already been stuck twice," said Hammond about Rock.

Stuck in a series of deep, puzzling holes. I grabbed a crowbar and let it drop into the holes. Some are nearly two feet deep and line up perfectly a good 15 feet across his backyard.

A while back Steve says Crown Properties dumped some extra dirt in the backyard which slopes sharply toward a creek.

The company has responded to similar warranty issues from other homeowners in Slater Mill. But few we talked to seem happy.

Linda Gilbert lives up the street.

"It's embarrassing," she said.

Donnie Nunley is the homeowners association past president. He's criticized Crown while speaking before the Douglasville City Council. Would he buy a home again from Crown?

"No. I would not," he said firmly.

Harvey Leonard has construction trash poking up in a backyard he says is washing away. He says he paid $180,000. Does he think he got his money's worth?

"No," he said. "Not when it comes to this especially."

No one from Crown would sit down to talk to us on camera about Slater Mill. In a written statement, the company said "all concerns regarding landscaping at Slater Mill that have been brought to our attention and submitted as a claim to our warranty department have been addressed."

Crown says they've acted "in good faith" with Steve's issues even after the warranty expired. "All valid claims" have been addressed.

Steve insists they have not.

"Because they didn't pack it solid, every time it rains my land's just falling right down the hill," Hammond said.

Douglasville city inspectors have spent a lot of time in Slater Mill. The FOX 5 I-Team asked them to take a closer look at Steve's house. Guess what?

"There's no code violation that covers holes in the yard," said city building inspector Mike Mettler.

No code violation on a straight line of holes, unless there's a bunch of construction debris buried deep in Steve's backyard. But don't expect the city to start digging.

"If he wants to go to the expense of exposing it, I have no problem asking the contractor to come in and remove it," said Mettler.

But only if there's a violation. Steve got a bid. One thousand dollars to dig up his backyard. That's not happening. Holes he's got. Money he doesn't.


Crown Communities
FOX 5 News Atlanta

Crown Communities, a D.R. Horton Company, takes pride in the quality of construction and final product delivered to all of our customers. All concerns regarding landscaping at Slater Mill that have been brought to our attention and submitted as a claim to our warranty department have been addressed. If the claim was submitted while the house was under warranty and the work was deemed necessary based on our established warranty guidelines, the work has either been completed or is in progress. A document explaining the warranty in detail is presented at closing and signed by each homeowner.
Specific to Mr. Hammond’s lot, even though the coverage period is officially expired for certain items under his warranty, Crown Communities has acted in good faith to repair, replace or address issues based on his claims. The standard transferable warranty period for a new home is 1, 2 or 10 years, with specific warrantable items identified within each of these time periods. All valid claims by Mr. Hammond have been addressed to date, some even within the last two weeks.
The satisfaction of our homeowners is a top priority and we encourage any homeowner to contact us directly if they ever have concerns with their home. We are committed to superior customer service and providing families with quality homes and neighborhoods in the greater Atlanta area.