John Mills feels like he's made the biggest mistake of his life.
“Some nights you’re up just thinking about this stuff and you’re like, man, I really put me and my family in a bad situation,” Mills said.
Mills said the $300,000-plus Green Cove Springs home he paid Dream Finders Homes to build his family had construction issues from day one.
Dream Finders Homes has more than 30 communities in Northeast Florida. The company builds homes in seven states.
If you’ve been to EverBank Field in the past few years, you’ve probably seen a Dream Finders’ model home. The Orange Park company is the official homebuilder of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“You can see all the waviness in my roof,” Mills said.
Mills noticed dips in his roof five years after Dream Finders built his home.
“This mortgage is going to take me 20-30 years to pay off and I have to wonder if the house is going to be standing in the next 20-30 years,” said Mills.
Mills has a 10-year warranty, so he asked Dream Finders to fix the roof.
The company sent a contractor out, but Mills said the roofer didn’t finish the job and left roofing materials in his driveway.
Mills recorded himself and his wife confronting Dream Finders employee Brandon Ayers about it.
“We did fix it,” Ayers can be heard saying in the cellphone video.
“No, that’s not fixed,” Mills replied.
After several phone and email conversations with Dream Finders, the company said Mills’ roof problem is not covered under his 10-year warranty.
The 10-year warranty only covers “roof framing systems,” not the shingles or the wood underneath.
Dream finders’ CEO Patrick Zalupski would not agree to an on-camera interview, but sent the following statement:
"DFH strives to ensure all home buyers have an exceptional experience and chose to repair Mr. Mills' non-structural, non-load-bearing weather related roof issue despite the fact that his home is over 5 years old and currently out of warranty because our ten year warranty, which is in line with industry, covers major structural defects including actual physical damage to designated load-bearing foundation, footings, beams, columns, walls and load-bearing roof framing and floor systems of a home caused by the failure of the load-bearing portions which affects their load-bearing functions to the extent the home becomes unsafe, unsanitary, or is otherwise uninhabitable. We hire and train well qualified staff to manage issues that may arise in regards to major components, workmanship and materials throughout a one-year warranty period laid out in the home buyer's contract at purchase and closing. Several years after Mr. Mills' one-year workmanship and materials warranty expired, Mr. Mills began verbally abusing and threatening our DFH team members who have families that love and rely on them, which it makes it difficult to have a productive conversation with Mr. Mills and to work with him collaboratively while our valued and talented team members feel that their safety is in jeopardy."
In Mills’ cellphone video, Ayers can be heard asking Mills, “Are you going to square up to me?”
“Straight up. You’re on my ****ing property right now. Remember where you at,” Mills replied.
Many of the Dream Finders homeowners Action News Jax spoke to over the course of our investigation said they have not experienced construction issues.
But Mills is not alone.
Forty-four customers have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
Those complaints have not affected the company’s A+ rating.
BBB-accredited businesses like Dream Finders pay the Better Business Bureau to be evaluated for accreditation.
A BBB spokesperson told Action News Jax that Dream Finders has so many customers that 44 complaints is not significant enough to drag down its score.
She also said the score is based on Dream Finders responding to and working to resolve those complaints.
Mills said he thinks inconsistency is the reason some customers have problems and some don’t.
“They hire subcontractors who subcontract other people. So you don’t really know who all did the work to your home,” Mills said.
Mills said he has no choice but to pay out of pocket to have his 5-year-old roof straightened out.
“I feel like that is one of the biggest mistakes of my life, is letting Dream Finders homes build me a nightmare,” Mills said.
Action News Jax reached out to Mike Smiley, who held a leadership position within Dream Finders until four years ago.
Smiley did not want to go on camera, but sent the following statement:
"When I worked there, I worked for 3 of the most decent and honest people a person could ever work for. They strived to make a better product, more features and a better value for all of our customers. Myself being in the industry for years before I started with them saw a new standard set by DF as they offered far more than the national companies with a lower price. I also saw owners of a small company fight everyday (when I say everyday I mean 12-18 hours, 7 days a week) to make that big dream of Dreamfinders grow. To this day I am proud to say I worked for them, proud of the product we fought to put out and thankful to be a part of it. As you continue your story to get to the bottom of whatever you are trying to find. I hope you realize how many people that company has affected for the better and I truly pray you discover them for who they really are."
Cox Media Group