DEAR BARRY: Last year, we purchased a newly built home. Before closing we hired a home inspector, and no defects were reported. But now we’ve learned that there were code violations. How could the house be sold if it didn’t meet code, and why weren’t these things found by the home inspector or the city building inspector? How do we find out who did the code inspections during the building process? What do we do next? –Sandy
DEAR SANDY: Without knowing the nature of the code violations, it is hard to say why these defects escaped the attention of the home inspector and the city building inspector. But here are some general perspectives.
When a home inspector says that a new house has no defects, there is good reason to question the thoroughness of the inspection. There simply are no homes, new or used, without a small or large list of defects. The defects may be minor, but they are definitely there.
In most cases, they do not mean that the house is substandard, but they reaffirm that all things made by hands are imperfect. A truly qualified home inspector would probably have found those imperfections.
Liability for home inspectors is limited according to the standards of practice for the industry and the terms of the contract that you signed when the inspection was done.
When a municipal inspector signs off on a newly built home, this is not a guaranty that everything is built to code. It simply means that remaining code violations were not observed during the inspection. Municipal inspectors do what they can with limited time and constraining circumstances, such as cramped bureaucratic budgets, limited personnel and heavy work loads.
Liability for municipal inspectors is specifically disclaimed in the building code itself.
With a brand-new home, liability for undisclosed defects resides with the builders. It is their responsibility to guaranty the quality of construction for a time span specified by state law.
To obtain a comprehensive list of the inherent defects for which the builder is responsible, a second inspection by a highly qualified home inspector is recommended. This second report should be submitted to the builder, along with a request for repairs.
DEAR BARRY: Last year, when I bought my home, the adjacent property was being prepared for construction. The lot had just been regraded, and this caused a drainage problem that became apparent with the first rains. Water from that property now runs into my yard. Are there any laws that require developers to avoid drainage onto other properties? –Angie
DEAR ANGIE: When builders and developers alter the drainage characteristics of a construction site, they assume responsibility for the effects such changes have on adjoining properties. However, laws governing these situations vary from one state locale to another.
Therefore, you should consult your local building department, and possibly a private attorney, to determine your legal position and the liability of those who regraded your neighbor’s lot. If they are legally responsible, then drainage improvements should be made to divert water flow away from your property.