In March, when David Burns returned from vacation, he noticed a builder was starting a new house a little too close for comfort to his home in Spotsylvania County, Va. The concrete foundation of the garage and the driveway of the new house were 12 feet over Burns' property line, he said.

Burns said he called Core Construction Co., a franchisee of Ryan Homes, a large home builder in the Washington area and elsewhere, to tell the firm about the problem. But four months later, Burns says nothing has changed. Ryan officials say they are trying to determine whether Core erred.

Burns is one of nearly 80 buyers of Ryan Homes built by Core who are worried that problems with their new homes, which cost between $100,000 and $150,000, will go unresolved because the construction company is no longer in business and officials of Ryan Homes have not found a company to finish houses, complete repair work and honor the homeowners' five-year warranties.

"I'm a former surveyor and when I saw the stakes up I knew something was wrong," said Burns, who lives with his wife Delores, and daughter Candy in Plantation Forest, a residential subdivision near Fredericksburg. "So I called {Core} and told them that they were building on my lot and they promised me they'd tear the foundation down and reseed the yard. But they stopped working. And now, my place looks so bad."

The affected homeowners, who said they were attracted to the homes because of Ryan Homes' reputation, are complaining about a number of problems, ranging from unfinished houses, grading problems that have caused poor drainage, scratches and dents on cabinets to warped floors and roofs.

Eddie Smith, director of customer relations for Ryan Homes, which is owned by NVRyan of McLean, said Ryan "wants to live up to the warranty, but we're just not sure how. We're not sure who is going to do the work." Smith, based in Ryan's home office in Pittsburgh, met with several homeowners this week to get more information about their problems and to tell them the company is trying to find a new construction firm to finish the work.

Core, which had been a Ryan franchisee since 1981, "just walked away and closed its doors," Smith said. Core is responsible for building the homes and honoring the warranties.

Under its agreement with Ryan, Core was an independently owned franchisee and even though it bought building materials and other supplies from Ryan, it was responsible for its own finances, Smith said. Ryan Homes officials said they often contract with franchisees like Core to construct homes for them.

James Sheeran, an attorney representing Core, confirmed that Core is no longer in business and that a settlement agreement between Ryan, Core and the homeowners is being worked out.

Sheeran said Core had stretched itself too thin and ran into financial problems. "During the past year, things went downhill for the company," he said. "They haven't done anything since March."

Last week, a group of residents who were angered by Ryan's lack of response to their problems picketed in front of Ryan Homes' Old Bridge Estates project in Prince William County. Protesters carried signs that were filled with various taunts at Ryan, such as "Don't Buy Ryan, You'll Be 'Cryan'," and "Ryan Is Rotten to the 'Core'."

Many of the pickets live in homes built by Core in at least five subdivisions in the Fredericksburg area, which include Plantation Forest, Windsor Place, Sheraton Hills East, Queens Mill and Holly Brooke. As prospective Ryan home buyers drove up to the model homes in Prince William during the picketing, the handful of protesters explained to them the problems they have had.

In some cases, homeowners said Core officials promised to make the repairs after the initial walk-through inspection of the house, but never made them. In other cases, homeowners said they have begun to notice structural defects and other problems covered by their warranties, but have been unable to reach anyone from Core or Ryan Homes to honor their warranty.

Some of the homeowners said that when they called Core in May, they heard a recording saying the company "had ceased field operations" and that when they called Ryan's home office in Pittsburgh, they were told Ryan could not help them. The Core business number is not in service now.

"The problem is that we want Ryan to make the repairs and and honor their five-year warranty," said Victor Scavo, who lives in the Holly Brooke subdivision. He said his house has a leaky basement and two mechanics' liens placed against it for bills Core has not paid. "We want what we were promised," he said.

Other homeowners said they feel they have been misled.

"We spent 1 1/2 years visiting different models but always went back to Ryan," said Marian Burleson, who lives in the Plantation Forest subdivision. "We realize that with any new house there are going to be problems, but with a warranty for five years, we felt we were getting someone who would stand behind their house. And now, that's not so."

Joseph Miller, a control tower chief at the Quantico Marine Corps Base airport, helped organize the homeowners' protest in Prince William. He said his home in the Plantation Forest subdivision has had water in one of its crawl spaces for several months and he has been unable to get any one from Core to do the repair work. He met with Ryan officials this week to discuss the situation. "It was nice of them to talk to me and share their problems with us and to listen to our problems," Miller said. "They do seem willing to negotiate and to help, but there is still nothing in writing."