We moved into our new house six months ago. We still have a long list of items that need to be fixed, but the contractor never gets around to them. Is seeking the services of a lawyer a good idea now?
– Rob K.
This is a very common problem with new home construction. In fact, nearly every homeowner makes a list of defects after moving in to a new home. To be fair to the builder, many subcontractors work on a construction job and it is difficult to catch and correct every problem before the new owners move in.
If you moved into your home near the end of the construction season in your area, your builder may be slower than normal to fixed minor problems. Builders are notoriously behind on schedules and they want to get as much major work completed on other homes before bad weather sets in.
Generally though, six months should be adequate time for the builder get around to your complaints. It really is a mistake on his/her part because you will not be a good reference for the builder. Much of a builder’s new business comes from word of mouth and your words will not be favorable.
You should still delay contacting a lawyer at this point. You can plan on spending thousands of dollars on the lawyer’s fees and more of your time. The chances of winning the case in court often depend upon the nature of the defects so do some additional preliminary work first.
Make a list of all the defects that you have found. Study the local building codes for your locality and try to categorize the defects into ones which actually violate building codes and ones that don’t. Code violations make it much easier to win in court should it come to that.
Code violations are what can be called objective defects which can often be measured and quantified. Subjective defects are ones that do not violate the codes, but you may still find unsatisfactory. These include items such as poor drywall joints, corners not finished properly, poor painting, etc.
When the contractor sees your list of code violations, he will know what that means and the potential legal consequences. Hopefully this is enough to get him to come and make the necessary repairs. While those repairs are being made, you can discuss the subjective ones and also have some of those taken care of.
If your list of defects still does not get action from the builder, get quotes on having the repairs made yourself. You may find it will be less expensive and time consuming to have the repairs made yourself than to hire a lawyer. If you do end up hiring a lawyer, this will give your lawyer a monetary figure to use.
When deciding to go the legal route in court, select a lawyer who has some experience in handling building related law suits. Don’t be hesitant to interview several lawyers and get estimates of their fees.
Follow your lawyer’s advice, but generally you will not want to include all the subjective defects in the law suit. What you think is an unacceptable paint job may different than the judge’s opinion. Appearing to be overly picky on detail work may work against you.•
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.
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