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Purchasing a brand-new home is an experience that many Americans strive to achieve, but purchasing new construction can be a better choice for a litany of reasons. For starters, the repairs and maintenance on a new home versus a decently aged home are starkly different. New homes have the benefit of more stringent construction requirements, along with more efficient home systems such as air conditioning and windows. Builders also allow purchasers to customize finishes in the home that would otherwise be unavailable in an existing home.

Something about buying a new home just seems better, analogous to that “new car smell” when purchasing a car. Though new can often mean better, what happens when this isn’t the case? All too often, new construction purchasers are disappointed, when problems nonetheless arise. The first rain in the new home uncovers a defect in the roof, or settlement develops in the foundation leading to drywall cracks. Maybe the builder cut corners with the plumbing and now there is a water leak in your new home. Instead of bragging about their new home, this new Georgia homeowner is now wondering what they can do to hold the builder responsible for these defects.

Before going after the builder, it is important to address the issue that you are experiencing in your new home. Under Georgia law, a builder may not be responsible for damage to the real estate that occurs after you have discovered the defect in the home. Be sure to keep the receipts for any remediation work, as it is possible to force the builder to reimburse this cost, but do not let a leaky roof continue to drip into the home, as continued damage is on the owner once he or she becomes aware.

The next step for the homeowner is to assess the terms of the new home warranty that was executed with the builder. Georgia law requires home builders to provide a warranty to purchasers on any job over $2,500. This can be found in Georgia Code Section OCGA §43-41-7. Under the law, the warranty must be in writing, explain explicitly what is covered, establish a duration for the warranty (typically 12 months), describe the procedure for bringing a claim, and assign any manufacturers warranties on items like large appliances and HVAC. These requirements can also be referenced in the Georgia State Licensing Board’s rule 553-011.

If the defect meets the terms specified in the warranty, be sure to follow all procedures for creating your claim. Even if the builder seems willing to remedy the construction defect at first, it will be important to keep a record should conversations go south. For most new homeowners, the process can be as simple as filing the claim and having the builder make repairs. Of course, if this were always the case, there is a good chance that you wouldn’t be reading this!

If a builder is not willing to honor the terms of their 12-month new construction warranty, or if the defect falls outside the scope of your warranty, you should consult with a real estate attorney immediately. This is why keeping a record as mentioned above becomes important, because the first thing your lawyer should ask you in this instance is whether you have submitted a claim under the warranty, and if not, the lawyer will ask for all communications from the time you discovered the defect forward.

Just because the defect is not covered under warranty doesn’t necessarily mean the purchaser has no recourse in the matter. Under Georgia law, an owner’s alternative legal claims against the builder include breach of contract, negligent construction, or fraud. Whether there is a legitimate basis for such a lawsuit depends on the facts of the particular situation.

Although there is a limit to how long you can wait to file a lawsuit after discovering a problem with the condition of the home, this time limit may be longer than the warranty period. In Georgia, any claim for breach of contract must be brought within six years of the discovery of the defect under OCGA §9-3-24. Also, any claim for negligent construction or fraud must be brought within four years from the time the claim arises under OCGA §9-3-30.

If your Georgia real estate issue gets to this point, it is imperative to consult the services of a qualified real estate lawyer, as the process can become complicated very quickly. For starters, in Georgia, you must first provide the builder with notice under Georgia’s Right to Repair Act via OCGA §8-2-35. This requires that the homeowner send notice at least 90 days before initiating a lawsuit, in addition to providing specifics around the nature of the construction defect. From here, the builder must reply within 30 days to initiate the resolution of the matter. The goal behind the law is to assist the parties in a mutual resolution before seeking action in court.

Hopefully, as the owner of a newly constructed home, you will find it’s well constructed, in great condition, and you will settle in and enjoy living there with no problems. If you do discover a defect with the home after moving in, however, and are unsure of the best way to proceed, contact a construction law or real estate attorney in your area. An experienced professional can help you determine the best course of action and ensure you are following the correct procedures to get a speedy resolution to the problem.

If you are the owner of a newly constructed home in Georgia and discover a defect but are unsure of your options, give us a call! Thrift McLemore’s attorneys pride themselves on their expertise in real estate law and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve. Contact Thrift McLemore by email at info@thriftlegal.com or by phone at 678-784-4150.

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