What the buyer can do with unresponsive builder


Dear Mr. Azrael:

We purchased a new home on July 7, 1999, from [a Severna Park builder].

As of today, one year later, our walk-through work still has not been completed, even after numerous calls and registered letters to the builder.

But to make matters worse, we do not have a home warranty. It was not paid for by the builder at settlement, even though it appears on our settlement papers, which states it was paid POC [paid out of contract].

After numerous calls to both the builder and title company, he finally did pay for the home warranty this past May, but no warranty was issued by the Home Buy- ers Warranty Co. because he paid it almost a year late and the house was never inspected by them.

We would like to know our rights in this case, and we would like the builder to finish the work he started, as well as the work he promised to have done.

Jessica and John Green Pasadena

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Green:

I hope you read last week's Mailbag column. I discussed the rights of a new-home buyer.

Based on the facts you describe, the builder has breached his contract by failing to provide the home warranty at settlement. As a result of this breach by the builder, you've lost protection by the Home Buyers Warranty Co.

The builder may be held legally responsible for damages you suffer as a result.

You have other claims as well.

The "punch list" items, which were listed during your walk-through, are required to be completed by the builder within the time stated in your contract.

If your contract doesn't specify a time period for completion, the builder has a "reasonable time" to finish this work. In my judgment, one year is more than a "reasonable time."

You need to review your contract carefully to see if it contains any special notice requirements or other provisions which affect your claims.

You should then send the builder a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, specifying the work which still needs to be completed, and any other defects or deficiencies in the home that may have appeared since settlement.

You should give the builder 45 days to complete all of this work.

If the work is not completed, or you are still dissatisfied, you should obtain an estimate of the cost of completion from another qualified builder or expert.

You should then consult an attorney about suing this builder to recover the cost of completing what the builder has failed to finish.

If your contract with the builder allows you to recover attorneys fees, you may sue for these as well.

This builder's track record in attending to details does not sound good.

I suggest you act forcefully and without delay.

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