When Susan Savage and William Deane moved into the Irvine Co.-owned apartment community The Bays in May 2013, their new residence seemed perfect. It's one of the cheapest places to live in Corona Del Mar, right across the street from an elementary school, right down the street from Fashion Island and the beach, and minutes from the freeway. They had no idea that almost four years later, they'd be suing the Irvine Co. for damages ranging from breach of contract to negligence after being forced to move three times in 13 months and losing most of their belongings due to water intrusion and mold issues.
But Savage had a premonition of sorts that something might happen. The week she moved into The Bays, she and her father noticed certain spots on the floor were hot. Suspecting a slab leak, she had maintenance workers inspect; they told her pipes carrying hot water were too close to the slab. Sure enough, two and a half years later, Savage received a call that plumbers were heading to her apartment due to a steaming pool of water found outside her home. When her leasing office told her "We think you have a slab leak," Savage said she just started laughing at the irony.
Her laughter turned to frustration when plumbers had to rip up her floors to get to the slab, and her family had to relocate to a hotel almost two weeks before Christmas. Savage argued with management until they agreed to let her move to a different unit in The Bays that night. During the move, she discovered flooding underneath furniture in her apartment as well. She says the Irvine Co. tried to charge her $611 for the damage to the carpet, but Savage talked the amount down and even got Don Bren's people to pay half of the final amount.
"In the new unit, we were happy," Savage wrote in an online Facebook post. "The boys had their own room, we were close to the pool, and we had neighbors with children that were the same age...It seemed to be going well, but within weeks I got sick.Then I got sick again. I kept getting sick. I couldn't seem to shake whatever this was."
Her kids also didn't feel well, which she dismissed to "kids get[ting] sick]. Then one day in September 2016, after putting down her 11-year-old husky Aries, she was packing her dog's belongings when she discovered a leather jacket in her new closet covered with what appeared to be mold. She found more mold everywhere from the bedrooms to underneath her son's mattress. Savage contacted her leasing office and went through what she calls a "parade of investigators and vendors." Irvine Co. confirmed the drywall to be "softer than we would expect it" and that it had "plumes [of water] coming through the wall."
They moved her to a hotel, and the Irvine Co. hired a vendor to determine which of her items would get trashed and which were salvageable. The Savages lost almost $250,000 worth of items, from high-end clothing to all of the kids' belongings, and all of their furniture with the exception of some bookshelves and their piano. But they were able to move back to the The Bays, to a third apartment last fall, having to argue with the Irvine Co. for temporary furniture while they waited for a settlement from them to get their items replaced.
Just when everything seemed to be calm, water began pouring into her place this past January. Once again, she and her children had to move to a hotel while repairs were done. Workers found growing plants inside the frame behind the drywall of the third apartment and what appeared to be rotted wood. Instead of fixing that, she says workers merely drywalled over the damaged frame without fixing it.
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Savage and Deane are still trying to get compensation from the Irvine Co. for their troubles. They're offering $20,000, but Savage hasn't signed. Instead, Savage and Deane filed a civil suit in February, alleging breach of contract, negligence, intentional affliction of emotional duress, fraudulent concealment and conversion, among other charges. They're asking for general, special, and punitive damages, along with the "cost of replacement of those effects lost to contamination" and all legal fees.
There's still a water leak in their current (third) unit. Irvine Co. hasn't returned requests for comment.
"I'm not going to lie; I'm pissed." Deane admitted as Savage summed up her feelings by saying, "I'm disgusted. I'm disappointed. I'm very frustrated. Two weeks again when it started raining in my living room, I couldn't believe it. I was just like 'Are you serious? Are we doing this again?"