In a past article we wrote about how to review a home construction contract. A reader asked for a follow up article on claims or issues you may have after you move in. Here’s a few pointers:
If you buy an existing home from a prior homeowner, your claims, if any, would normally be against the prior owner. In this case, your claim is based on the prior owner not disclosing a known problem. In other words, the fact that you have a construction defect is not sufficient. You must also prove that this problem existing prior to closing, the prior owner knew about the problem, and that the prior owner failed to disclose said problem. If you obtain your own home inspection, that inspection may limit your claims against the prior owner for misrepresentation.
With new construction, a contractor must provide various warranties and they cannot ask you to waive these warranties. These warranties are found in Minnesota Statute Section 327A. There is a broad set of protections for the first year after construction is complete. You can still bring warranty claims for up to two years if the issue relates to structural, mechanical or electrical issues. Finally, you have up to ten years to bring warrant claims regarding a major structural defect (like a floor is ready to collapse). Various products installed in your home may have a manufacturer warranty as well and those time periods will depend on the specific warranty.
Although some warranty claims can be made long after construction, it is always best to bring a claim immediately as there are other legal concepts that might prevent recovery if you knew of a problem for a long time and failed to bring an action.
With all claims, you should not just pay a contactor to fix the issue and then try and bill whomever you think is responsible. Instead, you should get a quote and document the problem but then give the responsible party a chance to fix the issue at their own time or expense.
Another general concept here is that you can’t just look to others to fix your problems. A homeowner has a responsibility to properly maintain their home. Living in Minnesota exposes us to some crazy weather and some problems cannot always be predicted during construction. Proper landscaping, gutters, use of ventilation systems and other standard maintenance helps protect your home from the elements. A failure to do such things may lead to or exaggerate an existing problem so you must be careful to do all that you can to mitigate your damages.
Please send any request for topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know. Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.