Inside New Construction
When errors are made, owners have more options than they may realize.
The clean sheen of a brand-new house is calming, but it can give
buyers a false sense of security. Buyer’s remorse takes on a whole
new quality when a just-completed foundation cracks or when
water is pouring in through a brand-new roof.
Denver attorney Mari Perczak, a construction defect specialist
with the Burg Simpson law firm, sees all kinds of defects in new
construction. And with building activity picking up, mistakes are
likely to increase as new tradespeople learn the ropes, she says.
One piece of advice that can help: Tell new-home buyers to
identify who’s responsible for the construction. “Consider asking for the insurance information for the general contractor,” she
says. That can be helpful in the event of defects.
In Perczak’s view, the biggest risk new-home owners face is run-
ning out of time to address problems. The statute of limitations on
claims for defects in new-home structures is set at the state level.
She says 10 years is the most common time period, though it is six
years in Colorado where she’s based. There are also time limits for
filing a suit after a home owner discovers a structural defect. (In
Colorado, it’s two years.) Perczak says problems can take time to
show themselves. “In our experience, it can take years, and prob-
lems can continue to be hidden,” she says. For example, defects
related to moisture or concrete settling into unstable ground are
difficult to detect in areas struck by drought. “You’ll see issues after
a period of heavy moisture,” Perczak says. Construction materials
can mask trouble. “Some types of cladding are really good at hiding
those types of problems,” she says. And the most costly problems
may not even be related to construction. Drainage and grading is-
sues tend to be quite expensive to fix, she says.
Perczak says home owners often don’t understand their rights.
Some believe they’re out of luck because the one-year warranty
on their home has already expired. But she notes this “express
warranty” from the builder doesn’t affect the right to sue under
statutes defined by the states.
Advise clients who think there’s a problem to call an outside
expert with no financial stake in the home. Sometimes owners
err by calling the builder, who may refer them to the engineer
in charge of the construction. “It comes down to this: Don’t get
legal advice from your builder,” Perczak says. “When in doubt,
bring in a good home inspector who can tell you whether or not
you should seek the help of a well-qualified contractor or an ar-
—By Meg White
—By Meg White