Hmmm… Think you’ve got defects in your new home? Know you’ve got’em but don’t know what to do next? Don’t panic! As a home inspector dealing mainly with new homes, I’ve gained a lot of experience with defects caused by both good and not-so-good builders. Maybe you can benefit. Start here and then go to the proper page.
Rule #1. Hire an experienced inspector who is familiar with required standards and not afraid to cite them.
Built-in defects can range from minor to very serious. Remember that even minor defects can lead to major problems. For example, if an exterior door or window isn’t properly flashed the wood will deteriorate and rot, and will eventually need replacement (at your cost). However, a properly flashed door or window can last for generations with just usual maintenance.
Defects in inspection reports should be sourced to authoritative reference material and will substantiate your inspector’s findings.
Noted defects that are building code violations should cite the specific code and section number. Your inspector should also refer to Manufacturer’s Installation Specifications, the National Association of Home Builders Quality Standards, and/or other recognized Industry Standards and guidelines.
WHAT TO GIVE YOUR BUILDER
Most Builders are responsive to defects that are located during an inspection. You should supply your Builder with a copy of the inspection report. A good report lists all defects that were identified during the inspection and cites the applicable standard. If you have a good relationship with your builder you may want to hand it to him or his representative. I recommend that you obtain a dated receipt. If you mail the report, I recommend that you use regular mail. It’s a good idea to include a cover letter. Keep the tone positive and friendly. If you don’t get a response within a reasonable amount of time send another copy, this time using Certified Mail.
Keeping good records is very helpful in case of misunderstandings or disputes. Create a file and log your communications. Keep a record of all contacts with the Builder and subs regarding your home in this file. If you have a phone conversation regarding repairs to your home, jot down the details of who you spoke to and what was said. Include the time and date. In the majority of cases this kind of information is not needed, but it is good preventative insurance. If your Builder says that any part of the report is incorrect you should obtain his opinion and the basis for it in writing. Most inspectors have heard all of the excuses and stand behind what they write. Don’t simply take the Builder’s word for it. He should provide you with a written authoritative source for his opinion, just as your inspector has. A statement like “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it and we’ve never had a problem” isn’t sufficient.
It’s important but not totally necessary that your Builder receive your report prior to the one year anniversary of your closing (This is true in GA. I don’t know about anywhere else). I recommend this so that repairs can be made under the Builder’s one year warranty. If you have an Extended Warranty it’s still important to get the report to your Builder within the first year. This is when the warranty is most comprehensive. Most warranties cover only major structural items after the first year. The warranty company decides what is a structural defect. Usually an item has to fail before they consider it a defect. I consider all structural defects to be unacceptable. They will likely cause something to need repair sooner or later, and sooner is usually cheaper to repair than later. Please remember, Builder’s warrantys aren’t the be-all end-all. Lots of other Standards may applie to a given defect.
If the house is brand new and you haven’t closed, I strongly recommend that everything except for small cosmetic items be repaired before closing. No matter what your Builder says or promises, your leverage is greatest before you close.
If your report cites code violations on your home, you should know that the CABO Code was adopted into Georgia State Law as the minimum construction standard. This means that your home “must” at least be built to the CABO minimum standard. Statements such as “That is not required in this municipality” or ” We have always done it this way” aren’t acceptable. Municipalities may write their own codes, which are more restrictive than the State adopted code. However, no one has the authority to downgrade a code once it has been adopted into law without specific written approval by the State of Georgia.
Cobb County GA Residents: In the event that the inspection reveals code violations, you should be aware that Cobb County Building Officials will only be of help if they are in receipt of the specific violations prior to the one year anniversary of the “Certificate of Occupancy” of your home. The $10,000.00 Code Compliance Bond required by the county affords you some protection. However, there isn’t a $10,000.00 bond for each house. It’s spread over ALL of the Builder’s projects and may have already been depleted by other homeowners.
There may be some disagreement on what is required of the Builder regarding CABO Code items.
GA State law requires the Builder to build the house to the CABO Code as adopted by the State of Georgia. He would also be required to meet any ADDITIONAL Standards that the County might impose. The Municipality is not allowed to reduce the requirements of the State, but may them more restrictive.
Some items are not specifically identified by the Code and are refered to as “Alternate Methods and Materials”. When disputes on these matters arise, I suggest following standards set by HUD to resolve the conflict. They are as follows :
1. “A written acceptance by the inspecting authority ( for example, a letter from the municipality’s head building official or copies of the minutes of a Planning Commission meeting). Letters from a local inspector will not be sufficient.”
2. “The supporting SBCCI Compliance Report, HUD Materials Release, Truss Connector Bulletin, or similar report.”
3. These documents should be supplied for each item and not issued as a blanket statement for the whole house, such as a “Certificate of Occupancy”.
Items #1 and #2 are found in “HUD Compliance Inspection Guide”,#IV-HD-93-26