FORT MYERS, Fla. - Lou Siebert is living with Chinese drywall and it's taking a toll on him and his wife.
"I feel like we're probably getting to the end of our line with our health," Siebert says, "so that we'll have to get out of here."
According to the Lee County Property Appraiser, Siebert is not alone. He lives in the single largest cluster of homes with the toxic drywall in the county. His neighborhood is The Meadows of Estero, it's right off U.S. 41 near Corkscrew Road.
Homeowners like Siebert are getting a break on their property taxes, however, because of the tainted drywall. A law in effect until 2017 says, "if the building cannot be used for its intended purpose without remediation or repair, the Property Appraiser must assess the value of the building at $0."
WINK News analyzed the list of exemptions for Lee, Collier and Charlotte Counties to see where all the drywall exemptions are and just how big the problems is. In Lee County, 1,229 single family homes and condominiums have the exemptions. Many are spread out, but fourteen neighborhoods are clusters of more than a dozen. Here's some of the biggest:
71 in The Meadows of Estero at 41 & Corkscrew
66 in Coral Lakes off N. Del Prado in Cape Coral
53 in Olympia Point at SR 82 & Lee Blvd in Estero
52 in Bella Terra off Corkscrew east of I-75
45 in the Blue Haven Coach Homes on Burnt Store Rd in Cape Coral
In Charlotte County, the list of exemptions provided by the Property Appraiser shows 223 homes are considered to have zero value. There are three large clusters in Punta Gorda:
90 at Magdelana Gardens
45 at Vivante
32 at Peace River Condominiums
Collier County's Property Appraiser lists the smallest amount of all three counties. 105 homes have the exemption primarily clustered in two neighborhoods in East Naples and one in Northeast Naples. They are:
33 in the Cedar Hammock Golf & Country Club off Davis Blvd
26 in Blue Heron, The Sanctuary off Radio Rd
18 in Bristol Pines off Collier Blvd
The exemptions reveal that Chinese drywall was only used in Southwest Florida between 2004 and 2007; the four year span of recovery from Hurricane Charley and Wilma and the building boom. If you break it down by percentage, in Lee County only .44% of the single family homes and condos are infected and only 2.5% from the boom building years. In Charlotte County the percentage of homes infected is .27% and in Collier County it is .06%. The toxic material causing all the problems is only found in the 1/4 inch drywall used in residential construction. The 1/2 inch drywall used in commercial buildings is safe.
The amount of property tax revenue lost is not known. It's not been added up because county budgets are figured with a certain amount of taxes not being paid. The amount not coming in because of the property tax exemptions fits within that margin.
It is important to note, the lists were accurate according the Property Appraiser Offices as they completed the 2010 tax notices. The number of properties on them will change as homes are investigated further, fixed, or sold.
To see the interactive maps we've put together that detail where the homes with drywall exemptions are, click on the links below.
Map of Drywall Locations