Moving into a new house is an exciting time in your life, especially if the house is brand new and no one has ever lived there before. If you purchased the home from a new home builder, you may have been involved in the process since the very beginning. While you may have been picking out flooring and shower tiles, you assumed the home was being properly built. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and you don’t find out about the home’s defects until after you have settled in and are living there. How can you protect yourself from costly repairs to a new home?
While the home had to pass inspection for you to live in it, there may be certain aspects of the home that are not as perfect as they may seem and they can still pass inspection. Maybe you purchase the home and determine that the small problems you are encountering with the house are ones with which you can live; the problem is, you don’t have the expertise to determine what’s a small problem and what’s a huge problem waiting to happen.
To fully assess the home’s quality, a season’s worth of wear will determine if the roof leaks in the autumn, if there’s a draft from the cracks in the windows in the winter, or you experience a power surge every time you turn on your air conditioning in the summer. New homeowners generally receive a home warranty from the builder, to cover certain aspects of the home’s structure. It’s usually broken down to cover mechanical defects, but only for a period of two years or less. If your plumbing in your bathroom is determined to be defected after this warranty expires, it is all on you to get it fixed. Other areas of your home may be covered for only the first year, like your roof or your carpet, so make sure you read and understand everything in that warranty. For instance, if it is your responsibility to have your air conditioning unit checked after six months and you do not do so, the builder can deny any reimbursement under the warranty if the unit breaks down during its first year. Note, too, that certain items will be excluded from the warranty or will make the warranty null and void. An example might be an “act of God”, like lightning hitting your home and destroying your chimney or you intentionally damage your own home; your homebuilder will not be responsible for these costs.
So what can a consumer do to ensure he or she doesn’t buy a faulty home and get stuck incurring all the costs? Since these issues can be costly, it is important to have a qualified professional on your side. It is important to have your construction defect expert Witness check your home before your warranty expires, in case there are some issues with the home. If you experience problems after the warranty expires, it still might be a good idea to have someone come out and inspect the home, just so you can determine how to best address the problem.While the homebuilder may send out an inspector of their own to assess your house, it is always a good idea to have your own impartial assessment. The inspector hired by the homebuilder works for them, and he or she may not be as diligent as you would like. Also, so defects are difficult to find; they take an expert eye, and you do not know the background of the person hired by the homebuilder. Having your own construction defect expert check out your home will give you peace of mind. Prior to your expert’s inspection, and/or the inspection by the homebuilder’s professional, make a list of all the items you perceive may be potential problems, even if they seem minute. What might seem like a minor imperfection could in fact be the beginning of a major issue. Don’t try and assess the problem yourself; leave it for the experts to sort out.
Once you have had the inspection by your construction defect expert, he or she should prepare a written assessment of your home from the rooftop and trusses all the way down to the foundation and surrounding soil. This assessment should address all the problems with your home—current and potential—so that you can put together a game plan as to how to tackle each issue. The report should also include an estimate of the repair cost; just to give you some idea as to the extent of the damage and as a counter to the number a contractor or another construction professional might throw out as a ballpark figure to fix the problem.
If it is determined that there’s a defect detected that is under warranty, make sure you address it with the homebuilder immediately, preferable my certified mail, to keep a paper trail. Take pictures, document dates and keep any communication between yourself and the homebuilder and the warranty company. If you wait, the warranty could expire, and you will then be responsible for repairing the defect yourself. Or, if a larger issue is found during the inspections, legal action might be necessary. Document these defects because the builder may be responsible due to breach of contract, if you can prove that the issue was caused by the homebuilder or that they knew there was a problem and they failed to resolve it, you may have a case. If the builder won’t honor a valid warranty or they somehow close up shop to avoid having to pay you, you can contact your state’s contractor licensing office, the Better Business Bureau, and an attorney to possibly pursue litigation measures. If it gets to this point, you may want to attempt to settle with the homeowner or, if the home is literally falling apart, see if they will buy it back from you. To dutifully pursue reimbursement, having a qualified construction defect expert provide their assessment will help your case.
Just remember, when purchasing a new home, investigate the homebuilder and their track record. Make sure you are protected and be aware of your rights as a homebuyer. Document everything, just in case you encounter a problem and enlist the help of a construction expert Witness for inspections and assessments; you are protecting your biggest investment—your home!