New Home Construction Defects and Your Legal Options
The increasing number of new construction homes, apartments, and condominiums being built in Florida have come with a surge of construction defect complaints. Rick Greene, director of development services in West Palm Beach, stated that for the past four out of five years, the city has collected more than $9 million each year in building permits alone. Increased demand for housing leads to increased pressure on developers to build as fast and as much as possible, which leads to shoddy construction. For reference, a few examples of these defects include poorly designed roofs, lower quality windows, and various electrical problems. Displeased homeowners are taking action and protesting the glaring oversights and negligence in their home’s construction, which cause a decrease in their property’s value.
When a home is purchased directly from a contractor or builder, the new homeowner has the legal right to expect a home that meets basic living standards, as well as construction that is similar to other residences, without it being explicitly stated in the closing contract.
There are many guidelines homeowners must abide by in order to hold these expected rights against the builder. Our Palm Beach construction litigation attorneys suggest first consulting with our professionals in order to present a strong case.
Florida’s Buyer-Beware Rule
In the buyer-beware clause of a new construction home contract, buyers and sellers have equal access to the specific details of a property prior to the final sale of the home. Once signed, it is understood that the buyer has purchased the home “as is”. It is strongly recommended that potential new construction homeowners research and understand the condition of the home before buying.
Under this rule, if the disclosed details happen to be overlooked by the buyer, yet the contract was signed, no legal action can be taken on the buyer’s side if any defects are discovered. It would then be the homeowner’s responsibility to pay for damages and repairs.
Florida courts recognized that builders and contractors were taking advantage of the buyer-beware rule. After Gable v. Silver in 1972, it became required for builders to provide buyers with a warranty of fitness. Like many other states, Florida decided that buyers of newly-built homes are entitled to a promise from the builder that the home is livable and the quality of the home is up to the buyer’s standards.
Warranty from the Builder
The residential construction business in Florida is booming. There is an abundance of all types of high-end properties from single-family homes on individual lots to luxury high-rises overlooking the ocean, and with such high demand there is the temptation among many builders to opt for lower quality materials in order to increase their profit. You’ve probably heard of the “Chinese Drywall” scandal where defective (and dangerous) cheap drywall was used in new construction. Thankfully, state courts are attempting to put an end to this fraud.
Whether or not builders provide a buyer with specific warranties on the purchase agreement, Florida Courts recognize an implied-warranty of fitness. For example, if a roof is expected to last 10 years, the builder can be held liable for a roof that only lasts one.
Required Deadlines and Procedures
Under Florida law, the builders or contractors of a buyer’s new home must receive notice of the home’s defects and be provided the opportunity to repair them before the buyer can sue. The property owner must give the contractor a written notice 60 days prior to filing a lawsuit. If the complaint is regarding more than 20 units of real estate, 120 days’ notice must be provided. Homeowners should attempt to give notice within 15 days after discovery of any defects.
Once the contractor has received notice, they have the right to inspect the home to determine if the reported flaws are legitimate. After their inspection is complete, they must provide the homeowner with the written inspection report and state whether they intend to make repairs, or dispute the complaints.
If the homeowner has followed these procedures and met all deadlines and not received a satisfactory result from the builder, they may consider filing a lawsuit. Upon consulting with an experienced attorney, the affected homeowner and their construction litigation attorney will discuss the gravity of the defects, the potential outcome of a lawsuit, and any alternatives to filing a lawsuit if the case may not be strong enough to prevail at trial.
Talk to An Expert
Construction defects in newly built homes or apartment complexes can be hard to identify without the help of an experienced professional. There are also quite a few procedures and deadlines homeowners must follow to avoid losing rights against the builder or contractor. We advise consulting with one of our expert Palm Beach construction litigation attorneys who can inform, advise, and help navigate through the process to deal with possible new construction defects and the legal options you are entitled to take.
If you have any questions regarding new-home construction defects, contact Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan for a free no-obligation consultation!