Residents living in homes built by the Make It Right Foundation in the Lower 9th Ward were warned Thursday that they should have their gas lines inspected for problems that could cause leaks.

The warning was just the latest in a long list of woes blamed on shoddy construction by the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery organization headed by actor Brad Pitt.

Notices delivered to the homes Thursday by New Orleans firefighters and code enforcement staff offered free inspections by city officials to ensure that the gas lines are safe.

The nonprofit group built more than 100 homes for residents who lost everything during the 2005 flood. But many of the buildings are now leaky, filled with mold or sinking into the ground — sparking lawsuits by homeowners and finger-pointing by those involved in the project.

Thursday’s notices came after the city was notified about one of the Make It Right homes where a natural gas regulator was covered up after it was installed, city spokeswoman LaTonya Norton said in an email. The regulator is supposed to out in the open or in a vented area so it can be serviced, and having it covered up may create a risk of gas leaks, Norton said.

Norton stressed that the city does not know of any other homes that have the same problem but said it wanted to alert residents to the potential fault.

“It is important to recognize that, at this time, we are only aware of one structure that had this issue,” said Norton. “That building has been corrected. Additionally, these structures were built over nine years ago, and we are unaware of any other buildings that have had issues related to this.”

The notices delivered Thursday offer residents of the Make It Right homes free inspections, which can be scheduled by calling (504) 658-7202.

If residents smell the rotten-egg odor of natural gas in their home, they should call Entergy immediately at (800) 368-3749, according to the notices.

It was not clear Thursday whether any homeowners had already taken the city up on the inspection offer.

Ron Austin, a lawyer representing homeowners in a class action suit filed in September against the Make It Right Foundation and Pitt, described the notices as “unnerving” and said they were another sign the organization and its founder should fix the problems with the homes they built.

“These people bought these homes in good faith. They’re doing everything to own a piece of the American dream, and Brad Pitt and the board of directors are essentially seeking to get out of their responsibility and leave these people with worthless homes without any way of getting them repaired,” Austin said.

The suit filed by Austin revolves primarily around water damage, leaks and rot that left homes sagging and in need of major repairs. In some cases, residents were forced to move out just a few years after moving in. 

In a recent legal filing, the foundation admitted it knew of problems with the homes in 2009, although construction of more homes continued until 2016.

In a separate case, Make It Right in 2015 sued the manufacturer of a supposedly rot-resistant, glass-infused wood used in the project.

The class action case spurred another suit by Make It Right, which sought to blame the local architect who worked on the homes, John C. Williams, for flaws that it claims led to more than $20 million in damages.

Williams declined to comment on the potential gas leaks on Thursday.

Pitt’s lawyers have filed a motion to be removed from the class action suit, arguing that the plaintiffs have not cited a “single factual allegation that Mr. Pitt made any promise” to the residents about their homes.

Victor Franckiewicz, a lawyer representing Make It Right, declined to comment on the situation Thursday.


Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​