Defects in a New Construction Home? Here’s What to Do

When you purchase a newly constructed home, you expect it to be safe, livable, and relatively free of defects. Unfortunately, not all new construction home buyers get this experience. After even a few weeks, you may find cracks, unfinished elements, or far worse mistakes – including some that jeopardize the structural integrity of the entire building.

What should you do if you find defects in your new construction home?

Talking to a Lawyer

In many cases, the most appropriate course of action is to consult with a construction law attorney. These attorneys specialize in issues related to new construction, and if your builder is liable for specific points of damage in your home that they refuse to fix, your lawyer will be able to guide you in resolving the conflict, even if it goes to court.

There are several steps you can take first in an effort to avoid expensive and time-consuming legal action, but if these steps fail, you’re going to need a backup plan. That’s why it’s often a good idea to first consult with an attorney, so you can get a better idea of your legal rights, the extent of the damage, and the potential for holding builders responsible for the damage. Because many attorneys offer initial consultations for free, you have nothing to lose.

The Inevitability of Defects

It’s not just common for new construction houses to have defects – it’s almost inevitable. Building a home is a very complex process that involves many different people from many different disciplines. Two houses built by the same building company might end up being very different because they utilize different contractors and subcontractors, or because they were built on a different schedule, with differing access to materials and human resources.

It’s almost impossible to build a house that’s completely free of defects. No matter what, you’re probably going to see some paint splattered where it shouldn’t be, some nail pops, and outlook covers that aren’t perfectly aligned. This is natural, and mostly to be expected.

However, if these defects are numerous or more severe, it’s important for you to hold your builder responsible. New construction contracts and local laws vary, but in most cases, builders are legally responsible for constructing safe homes that are up to code and there are specific clauses in your contract designed to protect you as a homeowner.

Home Warranties and Guarantees

Most builders offer home warranties or guarantees of their work, allowing new homeowners to report issues and have them promptly fixed. Generally, you’ll have at least a year to report any issues you find, and you may have many years to report issues associated with the core structure or foundation of your home.

Most homeowners who report these issues appropriately see them fixed in relatively short order. However, there are some important guidelines you’ll need to follow to accomplish this.

  •       Be aware of timelines and deadlines. Read your contracts and paperwork carefully so you’re aware of timelines and deadlines. Typically, you’ll have a finite period of time in which you can report defects for the builder to fix.
  •       Take photos and videos, with detailed descriptions. Whenever making a report, take photos and videos, and write up detailed descriptions of the issue. This will help the builder correctly diagnose and dispatch contractors to fix the issue, and also serve as evidence if you need to take legal action later.
  •       Follow the directions provided to you. Good building companies will have standard procedures in place for filing reports and requesting defect corrections. Make sure to follow these directions as closely as possible for best results.
  •       Keep evidence of your reports. You should also keep evidence of all your reports, preserving receipts and noting dates and times. Again, this will be important if you choose to take legal action in the future.
  •       Follow up consistently. Construction companies are generally very busy and constantly working under tight deadlines. Even builders with great intentions sometimes struggle to keep up with homeowner requests. If you don’t hear back right away, or if scheduling is delayed, follow up consistently to increase your chances of getting the issue addressed.

If your builder isn’t responding, if they refuse to address the defects, if they seem to be delaying the effort indefinitely, or if they don’t address the defects sufficiently, you’ll need to escalate the situation.

Code Violations vs. Subjective Defects

Do note that not all defects are created equal. A major crack in the foundation is much more serious than a superficial issue like a slightly off-center bathroom vanity or a tiny, superficial dent in your drywall. Code violations and major, objective defects carry far greater legal consequences than minor, subjective defects. In fact, you may not even want to take legal action over tiny, subjective defects.

Legal Battles

What happens if your builder refuses to respond to your messages? What happens if you and your family are harmed by code violation defects the builder should have caught?

Depending on the severity of the issue, you may want to take additional legal action to hold your builder accountable. Hire an experienced construction attorney and follow their professional advice for best results.

No matter what, you’re going to see at least a few defects in your new construction home. However, some defects are very serious and must be addressed, one way or another. If you can’t get your builder to correct the issue in a timely manner after filing a report with them, work with an attorney to strategize about your next steps.