Many of you may have purchased a home from a “volume” or “production” builder (i.e. a builder who built hundreds of homes in your community). If you think about it, the quality of construction provided by a volume or production builder is important to not only you, but your community as well. When construction defects are pervasive, owners may lose pride of ownership of their homes and reduce spending to improve and maintain their investment since many become dejected and disheartened by the existence of construction defects. If this problem becomes widespread, in the span of a relatively short time a community can go from 80%+ owner-occupied homes to less than 50%. Homes in your community that are not owner-occupied may be poorly maintained. Further, foreclosures in your community may increase in part due to the existence of construction defects, since many owners may be more inclined to “walk away” from a home that they believe is not a quality product. If this problem persists long enough, significant regions of a city can be negatively impacted.

My team has been representing owners in disputes with builders for 25+ years. We believe that you, the homeowner, deserve quality construction and should insist upon builders living up to their pre-closing promises regarding the quality of construction and their warranties. The following is a list of tips, based upon our experience, in dealing with builders concerning defects:}

  • Consider hiring a knowledgeable independent inspector of your choosing to inspect the home during construction or prior to closing. While I know many of you might be on tight budgets due to your purchase of a home, spending a relatively small sum of money in relation to the purchase price on a knowledgeable inspector to inspect the construction of the home may save you thousands of dollars later, and the misery of post-construction repairs.

  • If you discover significant construction defects prior to closing and those items have not been repaired to your satisfaction, consider not closing until they are properly repaired. Remember, most builder executives are graded on the number of closings per month – pressure is placed upon builder employees, subcontractors, etc. to quickly build homes and close them. Once you close, irrespective of any pre-closing promises that may have been made to you, you may no longer be on the builder’s “radar”. Sometimes builder representatives will make glowing promises regarding timely and quality post-closing repairs to entice you to close, making statements similar to “just close – we will take care of those items quickly after closing”, etc. While this may be true, once you have closed you may lose significant leverage to ensure that the repairs are made appropriately and quickly.

  • Most of the serious issues regarding home construction focus on two issues – concerns over water (window/roof leaks, issues with stucco, etc.) and foundation concerns. Issues regarding water can be especially troublesome, since diagnosing the true cause of the problem in some instances can be difficult, and sometimes expensive (i.e. is the leaking due to a roof leak, lack of proper flashing, mis-application of stucco, faulty siding or brick, or some other problem?). If you are having problems in these categories you should probably consult a legal professional to determine your rights as quickly as possible, since the appropriate repair of these issues can be expensive. The more expensive the repair, the more likely it is that a builder may attempt to shirk its warranty and repair responsibility.

If your home has significant construction defects, consider documenting your communication with the builder and taking a good pictorial summary of the problems. Keep in mind that if you continue to be dissatisfied, at some point in the future you may need to visually show an arbitrator, judge or jury the defects or problems. Sometimes builders, know that if they “cover-up” a defect you may have difficulty in presenting the issue visually later they may want to patch or cover over issues quickly without appropriately repairing the true cause of the problem. Take a good set of photographs or video of the pre-patch condition of the defect prior to repairs, and consider keeping a log of communications with the builder regarding these issues. This is often especially important in that many homeowners experience frustration in builder-sponsored repairs – i.e. no shows for scheduled appointments, workmen appearing at the home to perform repairs without the necessary tools, proper skill, etc. While these events may be fresh on your mind at the time, if ultimately you pursue a claim, they may be forgotten.

  • Watch out for builder tactics with respect to repairing construction defects. Some builders routinely tell homeowners that issues that homeowners consider to be of significant concern are “normal” and/or attempt to blame the homeowner as the cause of the problem (over-watering, under-watering, lack of “homeowner maintenance”, etc.). Finger pointing by the builder is a common tactic designed to deflect attention on others, including the homeowner, instead of the builder’s faulty site work, slab design, product installation, etc.
  • Finally, keep in mind that the builder may be attempting to “run out the clock”, and may contend at some point that you pursued a claim “too late”. All legal claims have statutes of limitations that may bar your claim if it is not timely filed. Some unscrupulous builders may make continued promises of repair and, when you finally become frustrated enough to take legal action, contend that you pursued your claim too late. The primary consumer protection law in Texas is governed by a two year statute of limitations. While some legal theories that you may employ have four year statutes of limitations, you don’t want to put yourself in the disadvantageous position of having to forego some or all of your legal claims because the claim was brought too late. If you have allowed a builder a proper amount of time to repair the issue to your satisfaction, and the problems persist, you need to seek a legal professional to determine your rights as quickly as possible.

Hopefully these tips are helpful to ensure that you receive the quality of construction that you deserve. Remember the quality of construction is important to not only you, but to your community as well.