New home deposit lost after cancelling over Covid concerns

Action 9: New home deposits

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — A local family claims a new home builder kept their deposit on a new home, even when they felt Covid-19 left them no choice but to cancel the contract.

2020 had such a great start for Chuchi Diamse and her family after moving to Central Florida 2 years ago. They had new jobs and then what they thought was going to be their new home near Winter Garden. The house was just built by Meritage Homes.

“We were like ready to move and get it going,” Diamse said.

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She and her husband paid Meritage a $10,000 deposit and applied for a mortgage. Their closing and move in date was set for August. But then Covid-19 struck and so did so many doubts, both feared losing their jobs. Then Diamse says their lender warned them, that without changes, it did not look good.

Diamse said she was told, “We’re not going to be approved for the mortgage.”

So, the couple canceled their new home contract in May, knowing Meritage could keep their deposit but they didn’t expect that to happen in the middle of a pandemic.

But then the builder denied their refund request.

“I don’t think it’s fair because it wasn’t our choice,” Diamse said.

Action 9 has tried to help at least a dozen consumers since Covid-19 struck last March, who claim they were losing big deposits for homes they could not buy and thought they would be protected.

A Kissimmee man contacted Todd Ulrich after he said Beazer Homes refused to return his $15,000 deposit for a new Windermere home.

David Smith said the family’s forced Covid-19 changes left him unable to qualify for a mortgage.

“They said they would cancel the contract but keep the deposit,” Smith said.

After Ulrich contacted the builder, Smith got a full refund.

Action 9 contacted Meritage Homes’ corporate office, about Diamse’s refund denial. The company said she failed to cancel by the contract’s deadline, but because of Covid-19, it offered to delay the closing but she turned that down.

“We would love to have our deposit back. That’s a lot of money for us,” Diamse said.

Real estate experts say document your new financial condition for the homebuilder and be prepared to prove you no longer qualify for the mortgage. And since Covid-19 uncertainty remains, include a financing contingency in the contract giving you a way out.

Meritage Homes response:

Should any of our customers have a change of heart, they have the right to cancel in compliance with the timeline specified in the contract in order to avoid forfeiting their deposit. While Meritage Homes is under no obligation by law or by contract to refund deposits, we understand that our customers are sometimes faced with unexpected hurdles. We do sympathize with each case and aim to find creative solutions so that we can put a great roof over their heads. In this particular situation, Meritage entered into a contract with the customer prior to the pandemic on January 21, 2020. Once we received the loan approval, the customers were no longer entitled to a return of their earnest money. However, Meritage offered to extend the customer’s closing date to give them time to navigate and properly prepare for their purchase. Despite the flexibility offered, the buyers decided to cancel the contract on May 6, 2020.