DEAR BARRY: We recently hired a contractor to enlarge our living room. But there is a dip in the wood flooring where the addition meets the original construction. When the work was still in progress, we noticed that the old and new floor surfaces were uneven, but the contractor told us it would not be noticeable once the wood flooring was installed.
Now that the work is finished, it is very noticeable, and the contractor refuses to take responsibility and fix it. What recourse do we have since we have already paid him for the completed work? –Amber
DEAR AMBER: The contractor’s refusal to correct the problem is entirely unreasonable because you pointed out the unevenness before the hardwood was installed. At that time, it was his responsibility to make adjustments in the subfloor before installing the finished flooring. Low places could have been filled, and high places could have been leveled by sanding or grinding the surfaces.
These would have been normal repair procedures for a contractor or tradesperson who is knowledgeable about construction and takes pride in his work. When your contractor made excuses rather than adjustments, he undertook full responsibility for the unsatisfactory outcome. He gave you false assurances, and now he should stand by his word.
If he refuses your fair request to correct the problem, he should receive a strongly worded letter from a construction defect attorney. A consumer complaint should also be filed with the state agency that licenses contractors. And you should have the work inspected by a qualified home inspector to provide documentary evidence of your position.
DEAR BARRY: I bought a 7-year-old home and completely remodeled the interior. Then the rains came, and leaking at the doorways damaged my new wood floors. My home inspector never warned me that this might happen.
So I hired another home inspector, and he showed me that the pavement around the house is sloped toward the building causing water intrusion at the doors. When I contacted the builder about this, he said I should call the paving contractor, but the paving contractor went out of business. So who is responsible for the thousands of dollars I spent to repair the water damage? –Jean
DEAR JEAN: First of all, the builder cannot dismiss the issue by laying it at the feet of the subcontractor who poured the concrete. Builders and general contractors are ultimately responsible for work that is done by the subcontractors they choose. "The buck stops here" is the maxim by which a builder must operate. Your builder should address this issue.
Your first home inspector also shares some liability. Drainage conditions around a building are among the primary considerations in the course of a home inspection. If the ground or pavement is visibly sloped toward the building, this should have been disclosed in the inspection report.
You should contact the inspector and ask for a reinspection of the drainage conditions around the building. You should also find out if the inspector carries errors and omissions insurance. It may be time for him to file a claim. But this should not let the builder off the hook.
To clarify these liability issues and the builder’s responsibilities, get some advice from a construction defect attorney.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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