When Can Homebuyers File a Claim for Home Defects?
Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or recently upgraded to your dream house, purchasing a new home is an exciting new milestone for many people. As you can imagine, it can be upsetting to discover underlying issues in your house after the final paperwork has already been signed. Luckily, the state of New York upholds certain laws designed to protect homeowners against unknown home defects that might pop up after closing.
It’s important to understand the details, conditions, and requirements of these regulations in order to comprehend your legal options and make sure the responsible party is held accountable. Builders and sellers alike have a legal obligation to disclose any deflects before any contract is exchanged.
Whether you discover problems in your brand new home immediately after moving in or years later, you could be eligible to file a claim against the party responsible in order to earn compensation or remedy the issues at hand.
What Is New York’s Housing Merchant Implied Warranty?
New York homebuyers are protected under the state’s statutory law for new construction. Known as the Housing Merchant Implied Warranty, General Business Law § 777 exclusively protects buyers of newly constructed homes.
The word “implied” means that although the statutory warranty need not be written directly into the contract, it still applies to all sales of new homes that meet one of the following criteria:
- The dwelling is a single-family home.
- The dwelling is part of a multi-unit residential building that is 5 stories or less.
Exceptions to New York’s Implied Warranty
Keep in mind that the warranty does not apply in the event that your home was built on land that you owned previously. This is considered a “custom home” and is not covered by New York’s implied warranty statute. Additionally, the imposed warranty doesn’t apply to:
- Leased units
- Mobile homes
- Dwellings in which a builder has resided for more than 3 years
Moreover, the implied warranty does not extend to any defects caused by third-party contractors beyond the contractor’s control. It applies only to defects caused by the builder, associated contractors, and their employees.
What Defects Are Covered Under the Statutory Warranty?
Like any law, it’s essential to understand the deadlines and included coverages under the Housing Merchant Implied Warranty. There are certain objects, materials, and systems covered under this law, each with its own warranty length.
Defects Due to Poor Workmanship
Home defects caused by poor workmanship are covered up to 1 year after warranty goes into effect (the date that the title is passed to the new homeowner). Common examples include:
- Roof cracks or leaks
- Faulty or leaky windows
- Flooring issues
- Foundation cracks
System Installation Defects
Any defects involving your home’s system installations are covered under implied warranty for up to 2 years. These home defects can involve the following systems:
Material defects are considered physical damage to load-bearing sections of your home. These home defects are covered for up to 6 years. According to New York’s statutory warranty protection, material defects include items such as:
- Foundation systems
- Flooring systems
- Walls and partitions
- Floor systems
- Roof framing systems
Remember that it’s important to review the official statute to determine which specific defects are covered, and for how long.
How Homebuyers Can File a Warranty Claim
When it comes to earning compensation for warranty claims, time is of the essence. Your success is greatly dependent on adhering to the proper timeframes detailed in the state warranty statue.
If you discover defects in your new home, it’s crucial to take the right steps to collect compensation for damages, repairs, or replacements. In order to achieve the most favorable outcome, it’s important for homeowners to keep the following things in mind:
- The homebuyer must provide written notice to the builder of the home. This must be received by your builder within 30 days of the warranty expiration. Builders are thus permitted to conduct a home inspection and repair the home defect in question. Failure to complete this step can result in the dismissal of your case.
- The homebuyer must file a claim within the allotted timeframe for the defect. You must file your lawsuit within 1 year after the warranty for the defect expires. For example, if you were to discover an issue with your ventilation system, you would have a total of 3 years to file a claim after the date of title transfer. (This takes into account the 2-year warranty for the ventilation system defect, plus an additional 1 year following its expiration.)
In the event that you decide to file a claim, consider these steps:
- Review your contract carefully. Search for any limited or modified warranty terms that could be in the builder’s contract. Unfortunately, the existence of such modifications can prevent you from filing a claim.
- If your house is a custom home, make sure you review your contract for specifications, plans, drawings, and obligations. It’s important to be aware of all agreed-upon procedures, if any, prior to notifying the builder.
- Follow the established process to notify your builder. Remember, the builder must receive the notice in writing within 30 days of the warranty’s expiration. Keep in mind that this timeline will look different based on the type of defect in question.
- Keep records, photographs, and documentation. Make sure to hang on to any means of correspondence (emails, text messages, voicemails, etc.) in addition to photographs, receipts, and bills for repair work you’ve done on the home.
When to Consider a Breach of Contract Claim
As noted above, “custom homes” aren’t covered under New York’s house merchant implied warranty. This entails a new house built on a land that was already owned by the homeowner. However, homeowners who find themselves in this situation may be eligible to file a breach of contract claim.
In order to earn compensation for a breach of contract claim, you must prove that the home was not built according to design, specifications, or terms listed in the builder’s contract.
In these cases, the New York court will typically award the homeowner with the amount required to remedy the defect. In some cases, the homeowner may receive the difference in monetary value between the defected home and its original value (without defects). The latter is the most likely outcome in instances where the builder performed the contract “in good faith.”
Our Firm Is Here to Protect What’s Yours
Sadly, many deserving homeowners are faced with warranty claim rejections every day. In many instances, filing a warranty or breach of contract claim against a builder can feel like a “David vs. Goliath” situation. No homeowner should be forced to go up against the big guys on their own—not when so many companies and builders have access to excessive funds, resources, and expensive legal representation.
That’s where we come in. Our firm has proudly served our fellow New Yorkers since 1898. Our experienced residential litigation attorneys will do everything in their power to give you the peace of mind you deserve and help protect what’s rightfully yours. Don’t let the big guys rip the rug out from under you. When you hire the law offices of E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy, you’re signing up to have 115+ years of experience on your side.
Were you disappointed after discovering defects in your brand new home? Don’t settle for less than experienced legal counsel. Call our award-winning team at (518) 284-3183 to request your free consultation today.