New Home Warranties
UPDATED: August 7, 2013
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Building a new home can be a wonderful or dreadful experience depending on the skill and ability of your builder. Because the homeowner does not usually have the personal knowledge that every aspect of his new home is being built properly, the obligation falls on the builder to ensure that the property meets basic minimum standards of habitability and is reasonably well constructed. Most states require that some type of new home warranty be provided to the homeowner. In addition, many builders will provide written warranties as part of construction contracts to inform the homeowner of his warranty rights and which may expand beyond the protections offered by state law.
State Requirements for New Home Warranties
Each state sets its own laws regarding the type of warranties that builders must provide when a new home is built. Therefor, you should speak with a construction law attorney in your local area to determine what you are guaranteed. In general, however, states usually provide for a warranty against faulty workmanship, defects in the design of your HVAC, plumbing or electrical systems, and major structural defects.
The length of time your home warranties are in effect may vary. In New Jersey, you are covered against defects in material and workmanship for a one year period. HVAC, plumbing or electrical defects are covered for two years. You have a full ten years of protection against major structural defects in the home. In Louisiana, on the other hand, you are protected from structural or foundation defects for only five years, although you have two years of protection for plumbing and electrical defects and one year for cosmetic defects.
The requirements for making a claim under these warranties may also vary by state. In Louisiana, you are required to inform the builder of the defects via certified mail and provide a reasonable opportunity to make repairs. If the builder fails to do so, homeowners may make a claim for damages for the cost of repair as well as for attorney's fees. In New Jersey, a warranty claim may be made with a warranty administrator or with the courts.
Builder and Manufacturer Warranties
While builders must comply with all state warranty laws, builders may also provide their own supplementary warranties as part of a construction agreement. When a builder provides his own warranty, it is enforceable under contract laws.
When products installed in a home come with their own warranties, such as appliances, typically claims must be made with the product manufacturer if these items fail. The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act can also be the basis of consumer warranty claims for defective goods and materials used in a home, although the Magnuson-Moss Warranty act applies only to tangible personal property and not to real property, such as a home.
Because there may be multiple sources of warranty protection in the case of defects in a new home, the homeowner should check with an attorney to find out how best to proceed.