PITTSBURG -- A group of eight families who bought homes from Discovery Homes and its Seeno family-related affiliates have sued the builder, claiming the company's sales associates and other representatives deceived them by failing to warn them of an expensive special tax assessment on the Pittsburg homes.
The plaintiffs claim they have each suffered more than $250,000 in damages, as they would not have bought the houses in the Veranda at San Marco development had they been fully aware of a $3,000-plus special assessment.
The families bought their homes from April to July 2011, about a year after the FBI and other agencies raided Seeno headquarters and months before this newspaper began reporting on the federal investigation into an alleged mortgage scam. While unrelated to that scam, which artificially inflated home sales prices, the Sept. 5 lawsuit further paints an aggressive Seeno sales force pitching homes to naive homebuyers.
The complaint alleges intentional and negligent misrepresentation, concealment, breach of contract and violations of government code.
"I think these people got led down a primrose path and weren't told that they'd have a $3,000 assessment on the house that would never go away," said attorney Joel Westbrook, who represents the eight plaintiffs. "They were robbed of the ability to make an intelligent purchase decision."
He said the first-time homebuyers face financial difficulties with the additional annual payments.
An inquiry sent to the Seeno company was not returned.
Most of the plaintiffs were first-time homebuyers "unfamiliar with the homebuying process" and were "aggressively" targeted by the Seeno company with signs stating first-timers need to only make a 1 percent down payment and could qualify for a 30-year fixed 3.25 percent home loan, according to the lawsuit.
The homebuyers were all referred to a representative with Mission Hills Mortgage Bankers -- a company that works closely with Discovery Homes -- who sat in the same room as the Seeno sales reps. If Mission Hills could not provide financing, they sent the plaintiffs to another preferred lender.
All of the homebuyers received monthly payment quotes from all parties that included a property tax payment estimated at 1.5 percent, the lawsuit alleges.
"The repeatedly-quoted property tax rate of '1.5 percent' by Seeno and Lenders was false, and Seeno and Lenders knew it was false," according to the complaint.
The actual property tax against each home would be well over 2 percent, because the Seeno representatives did not notify them of the more than $3,000 special Mello-Roos tax, according to the lawsuit. Mello-Roos is a common special assessment for new developments pooled for large infrastructure projects like schools, streets and sewers.
The Seeno associates also discouraged the homebuyers from reading the disclosures and failed to properly notice the special assessments in the disclosures package, the suit alleges.
"Seeno and Lenders never clearly explained to a single Homeowner the impact of Mello-Roos either orally or through any written disclosure," the suit claims.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.