Real Estate News

Faulty sprinklers flood homes in Roseville subdivision. Neighbors worry they'll be next

Chris Warren and his wife were at work on Feb. 1 when a neighbor called and said water was pouring from their front door and garage.

A sprinkler in the Warrens’ second-floor bedroom had malfunctioned and flooded their home with 3 to 4 inches of water.

It was the third time that such flooding had occurred in Roseville’s newer Westpark neighborhood. Two other homes there have been heavily damaged by malfunctioning interior sprinklers since 2016.

The culprit, residents say, is a sprinkler head manufactured by Viking Corp. of Hastings, Mich., which has been the subject of lawsuits in Northern and Southern California. The VK457 is known for turning on without fire or excessive heat.

Now, Westpark residents are banding together to get their sprinklers replaced. Some say they go to work each day worrying their houses will flood.

"I can’t turn off the water main each morning," said Laurie Cross, a working mother with a toddler who recently became aware of the problems.

Cross and others are organizing a community meeting later this week to discuss their options for getting home builders to replace the sprinklers.

The companies that constructed homes in Westpark include national home builder Lennar.

Lennar didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday but told Cross in an email: "We are continuing to work with our local installers and manufacturer representatives to gather all the appropriate information. … Once we have the necessary and accurate information regarding the sprinkler heads in question Lennar will reach out to you and any of our homeowners who may be affected."

Viking’s vice president of marketing, Jeff Norton, said the company is aware of the problem and working with Lennar and other builders to address it. Viking is a large manufacturer of fire-suppression systems.

"Certainly … if we feel we should be replacing sprinklers in a particular area, we would do so," he said.

Norton said as a homeowner, he sympathizes with the Roseville neighbors’ concerns about flooding.

"That’s a nightmare none of us want to face," he said.

Chris Warren, a 47-year-old Coast Guard aircraft mechanic, and his wife Durlye faced it last month.

"The firefighters had to punch holes through the first-floor ceiling to get all the water from the second floor to drain," Chris Warren said.

Crews hired by their insurer removed damaged belongings and gutted their walls and floors to remove moisture and mold.

The couple and their teenage daughter moved to a hotel for two weeks and then an apartment, where they will likely live for three to six months while their home is repaired, Chris Warren said.

The damage estimate is more than $100,000, he said, adding that dealing with the disruption and handling all the details from the flooding has been difficult.

"It has destroyed irreplaceable sentimental property and caused tremendous stress," Warren wrote in an email to Lennar.

Warren said his neighbors down the street had it even worse.

Jacob and Seonkyoung Longest were both overseas – he was deployed in the military and she was in Korea when a sprinkler near their master bathroom turned on without reason in September 2016.

"We’re not 100 percent sure how long it ran, but there was someone walking their dog outside and there was water coming out our front door," Jacob Longest said.

They got the water shut off and came home later to find the interior of their house heavily damaged and covered in mold.

As with other damaged homes, Lennar replaced the defective sprinkler but not others in the house, which are also VK457s, he said.

A third homeowner also had her home damaged by a defective Viking sprinkler, residents said.

"Within an eighth-of-a-mile radius, we've had three homes that have had faulty sprinklers malfunction and flood the houses," Chris Warren said.

Such stories are relatively new to Roseville but have been going in other parts of the state, and across the nation, for some time now, said Fred Knez, a Southern California attorney.

Knez sued Viking in both Riverside and San Francisco on behalf of two major firms that install sprinklers, Fire Sprinkler Systems and Thorpe Design. He settled the cases in July. Viking agreed to pay the firms to replace all the VK457s they had installed in recent years. So far, the Michigan company has spent close to $2 million.

State law has required fire-suppression sprinklers to be installed in new homes since 2011.

There were few problems until the Viking sprinklers started malfunctioning in 2013, Knez said. The two lawsuits he filed involved about 120 homes damaged by flooding from VK457 sprinklers. Each home sustained $75,000 to $300,000 in damage, he said.

The installers and home builders weren’t to blame, he said. "It’s all Viking," Knez said.

Westpark residents are hoping that all the VK457 sprinklers in their homes can be replaced by builders before more damage occurs.

"I want to unite our neighbors affected by the faulty sprinkler systems and come up with a way to get this situation remedied immediately so no one else has to experience this," Cross said.

The community meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in a room at the Martha Riley Community Library, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville.