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Repair Resolutions

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Posted On: 05/12/2010

QUESTION

We purchased a new home in September 2008 and had an inspection done under the one-year warranty a year later. The inspector found two things that the builder needed to repair (one of them he has known about since October 2008). What are our options if we cannot get any response from the builder to repair these items?

ANSWER

A "warranty" has two parts. First, it's a promise to fix, replace or maintain something. Second, there's a promise of performance, if not by the builder then by a third party such as an insurance company.

Most warranties are "limited". In some cases, that means a reading of the fine print will show that virtually nothing is covered. In other cases, builders want to protect their image and reputation and will go far beyond written warranty requirements to assure that owners are happy.

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In the case of builder warranties, there's sometimes little benefit to having a promise from a "builder" because, technically, the "builder" can be a corporation that instantly goes out of business when a project is completed. For this reason, there are four places to look for satisfaction.

First, check with the builder. If you do not get a response, send your request by certified mail with a return receipt requested. This is important because there are likely time frames and deadlines to consider.

Second, if the builder is not responsive, see if a third party such as an insurance company backs the warranty.

Third, check the rules in your state. Many states have "imposed" warranties or laws requiring homebuilders to honor warranties and provide a resolution.

Fourth, maybe the builder is not the right party to pursue with a warranty claim. For instance, a new home may have separate manufacturer warranties for appliances, furnaces, air conditioners, etc.

For specifics, speak with an attorney, legal clinic or community-housing group in your area.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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