Building your dream home should be a fun and enjoyable process, but it can also have its moments of stress. Homeowners might be forgiven for believing that all the anxiety will have been worth it – and be behind them – come moving-in day. At Foley Development, our ultimate goal is to make that belief a reality. But, the truth is, it’s not unusual for defects to surface, both during construction and during the first year you live in your new home.
There may be obvious defects that you catch very early on, but some hidden defects may escape your immediate detection. In times like these, a home builder warranty is meant to give you peace of mind and, as a Northern Virginia homeowner, you are guaranteed certain protections for material defects in a newly constructed home. Builders’ warranties offer varying coverage, so it’s important to take the time to learn and understand what your home builder warranty includes and excludes, how to make a claim and how to resolve any disputes that might arise.
Type of Coverages
The majority of builder warranties cover a new home’s workmanship and material for one to two years, with up to 10-years coverage on major structural elements. Beyond that, warranty exclusions can differ from builder to builder. Typical exclusions include:
- Damage owing to a homeowner’s own neglect, misuse or abuse
- Damage caused by third parties (vandals, animals), “acts of God,” or someone hired to work on the property
- Warpage or shrinkage of construction materials considered to be at a normal level, such as due to local weather conditions or soil settling
- Household appliances
- Any housing costs you incur if you’re forced to move out while repairs are being made
What You Should Know About Common Law Warranties
There are warranties that are implied by law and others that apply only if set forth in a contract. In Northern Virginia, there is an implied warranty in every construction contract that the work be done in a workmanlike manner and according to accepted practices and building codes for the local area. If a contractor furnishes defective materials or workmanship, this is considered a breach of the implied warranty.
For items not covered by common law, an express warranty is needed. You should talk to your builder about coverage that guarantees:
- All materials and equipment will be new, and of good quality
- All work performed will conform to the contract, plans and specifications
- All work will be free from defects
You might also want to ask about additional guarantees, such as one stating that any corrective work will be done promptly after written notice, and that any warranties that were issued by the manufacturers of construction materials be transferred to you by the contractor.
How To Make A Claim
If the need arises to make a claim, the home builder warranty service is intended to provide a convenient, hassle-free way to file a claim. In most instances, there is a number to call and a specialized trade service expert comes to your home to assess the damage. For some claims, multiple inspectors may appear to investigate a claim, so be prepared to present adequate proof of the problem in the form of reports, diagrams and photographs.
Even if a hotline number is used, file your claim and put your repair request in writing and keep a file of all calls and correspondence. The majority of claims are handled to the homeowner’s satisfaction, but it’s always a good idea to have a record of all your dealings with the builder and warranty company.
When Issues Arise Over What Can Be Covered
There may be occasions when a dispute arises between the homeowner and a builder over a defect and whether it is covered. Check to see if your warranty calls for mediation of disputed claims. If mediation is not successful, mandatory binding arbitration is typically the next step, with a neutral third party helping the parties reach an agreement. Arbitration is less formal than court and there is no judge, but most warranties require the parties to abide by the arbitrator’s decision, without appeal.
Arbitration is nearly always less expensive than going to court, but a homeowner can pay up to several thousand dollars to take a claim through the arbitration process. Your warranty should spell out what expenses you are or are not required to pay.
The Bottom Line
It is always to your advantage to thoroughly read through your home builder warranty policy. A reputable builder is your best hedge against problems, and should be willing to answer all questions you have regarding coverage. Taking the time to know your warranty’s coverage before construction begins is the best way to preserve the craftsmanship and quality of your new home for years to come.