Defects exist in all construction projects meaning it is likely that no project is ever completed perfectly.
Even a newly built home can have defects, defects may be lurking in the design, the materials, the installation of prefabricated items or appliances, or in the carpentry and construction itself.
It may be obvious the day you take possession or it may show up weeks, months, or even years later. If you find something wrong in your newly constructed home, you should ask:
- What are my rights against the builder?
- Will the builder fix the problem or reimburse me for the work?
- What steps should I take after discovering a defect?
- Do I need to undertake some form of legal action?
Ideally, you will have discovered any defects prior to the occupation of the building. Also, your builder may even advise you about design defects or material flaws found during the construction process.
However, not all defects will manifest, or be detected, prior to possession, so it’s important to understand your rights against the builder if defects are found days, weeks, or years later. It is also wise to understand the rights and obligations of your builder.
Suggested Actions When You Discover a Defect
Act to protect your rights immediately after discovering a construction defect. Your ability to demand repairs or damages under applicable warranties and/or contract terms are limited by time. Here are some initial actions to take:
- If you purchased a newly constructed home and land from the builder, review your contract looking for any limitation or modified warranty that may impact on a claim against certain items.
- If you purchased a custom home on land you already owned, review your contract for the plans and specifications, drawings, any other builder’s obligations, and any agreed-upon procedures for notifying the builder of a defect, or any binding arbitration requirements.
- Follow any procedure for notifying the builder contained in the contract or by way of ensuring the builder is aware of your concerns and acts appropriately.
- Keep copies of all your correspondence with the builder, as well as work orders and receipts for any repair work you have had done independently of the original builder.
- Take photographs of the defect and any damage caused by the defect, as well as after-repair photographs. Be sure to date and describe what’s in each photo for future use as evidence.
Property owners considering construction work will want reassurance that the work will be undertaken in a workmanlike manner and free of defects for a specified time-frame. Many contractors even include a warranty clause in their contract over and above the Statutory Warranties as stated in the Home Building Act. Such Warranties (also called guarantees) require the contractor to correct any defects through additional work on the project over the specified time.