If your builder isn't accepting responsibility for a problem, figure out whether a manufacturer's warranty might apply -- for example, to an appliance, windows, roof shingles, or other product. You may be able to argue that the product itself failed, in which case a manufacturer that stands behind its product will provide replacements and repairs. The catch, however, is that the product needs to have been installed properly -- and improper installation in new construction is often the very core of the problem.
Does Your State's Law Offer Extra Protection?
Warranty or not, you may get added protection from the laws in your state. In New Jersey, Texas, and various other states, the laws give homeowners an automatic warranty of their home's habitability and good workmanship. Some states may require you to give the builder a chance to make repairs before suing.
Laws passed by legislatures aren't your only hope (though they're the easiest to find). In most states, such as Colorado, Illinois, New York, and Washington, the "common law" (court decisions on individual cases that then set the rules for everyone else) may also protect you. Such states' courts have said that, just by the act of building you a house, the builder provides "implied warranties" that the house is habitable (safe, sanitary, and fit for use) and was built in a workmanlike manner, in compliance with local building codes. And even without an implied warranty, you may be able to sue a builder on another legal ground, such as fraud, breach of contract, or negligence.
What if you signed a warranty saying you were waiving (giving up) your rights under state law? Not all of these agreements are binding. Consult an attorney for an individual analysis.
For More Information
To find these laws and implied warranty rights, you won't necessarily have to do legal research. Many states have consumer protection agencies to help advise you on builder problems. Check whether your state agency has published an explanatory pamphlet online. However, if you're having trouble, now may be the time to consult an attorney or read Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and Susan Levinkind (Nolo).
For more information on new home defects, see Essential Guide for First-Time Homeowners: Maximize Your Investment & Enjoy Your New Home, by Ilona Bray and Alayna Schroeder (Nolo). And if you need legal help pursuing your case, get information on lawyers in your area from the Nolo Lawyer Directory.
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