The typical house contains more than 3,000 different parts. These components must be assembled with skill to form the new product you will call home.
It would be unrealistic to expect your new home to be perfect. Even the best-built homes likely need a few corrections. Most problems are corrected routinely by the builder. However, if a non-routine problem should arise, you should follow certain procedures to correct the situation.
First, identify the exact nature of the problem. Then you should put it into writing and send it to the builder. Many builders require all complaints to be in writing and will respond to telephone complaints only in emergencies.
Use the following guidelines when you write your letter:
- Include your name, address, and home and work telephone numbers.
- Type your letter if possible. If not, use printing or handwriting that is easy to read.
- Keep your letter brief and to the point, but include all relevant details. State exactly what you want to be done and how soon you expect the problem to be resolved.
- Be reasonable.
- Include all relevant documents regarding the problem.
- Send copies, not originals. Keep a copy of the letter for your files.
- Before you write your letter, familiarize yourself with your warranty coverage. If a problem develops after the warranty has expired, the builder is not required to fix it under the terms of the written warranty. Some items, such as appliances, may be covered by manufacturers’ warranties and are not the responsibility of the builder.
- Always go directly to the builder with your complaints. Do not send letters to lawyers, government agencies, home builders associations or any other third parties before you have given your builder a reasonable chance to correct the problem. Interference from outsiders may impede the handling of your complaint.
- Also, sending angry, sarcastic or threatening letters is not likely to expedite your case. Such letters usually do more harm than good.
- Contact outsiders only if you have reached an impasse with your builder. Try to avoid legal proceedings. Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming and should be attempted only as a last resort.
Remember that most builders are seeking customer referrals and repeat buyers. They want you to be satisfied. If a problem develops, remain calm and approach your builder in a reasonable manner. By following the procedures described above, chances are that you will be able to resolve the problems.
- Carefully read the contract to establish how construction issues are to be handled.
- Contact the home builder through the mail and by telephone to clearly explain the situation.
- Document all contact with the home builder
- Take photos of the situation and send copies to the home builder.
- Be prepared to hire a third party inspector.
- Which building codes and amendments are used?
- Which inspections are performed on the home during construction.
- Will the city dispatch an inspector to examine the situation and give an opinion based on local building code requirements?
The Better Business Bureau
The Office of the Attorney General and Legal Assistance
Federal Trade Commission
Small Claims Court
The Residential Construction Liability Act
A summary of the RCLA process is as follows:
- To formally start the RCLA process, the homeowner must give written notice to the contractor specifying in reasonable detail the construction defects of the home 60 days before taking any legal action. On request of the contractor, the homeowner must provide any evidence of the defect such as photos or inspection reports.
- The contractor shall have 35 days after receiving the notice to inspect the situation to determine any repairs necessary. A written offer of settlement must be submitted to the homeowner within 45 days of receiving, and if the offer is accepted – make the repairs within 45 days.
- The homeowner has the right to refuse the settlement offer or offer to repair, but they must provide details why the offer is being refused. If the offer is refused the contractor may make a supplemental offer. If a homeowner does not permit the contractor to inspect the property or make repairs, then certain restrictions will apply to the homeowner’s ultimate settlement offer.
Helpful Online Resources
- Attorney General – www.oag.state.tx.us
- Better Business Bureau – http://austin.bbb.org
- International Code Council – www.iccsafe.org
- Federal Trade Commission – www.ftc.gov or www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov
- Justice of the Peace and Small Claims Courts – www.courts.state.tx.us
- Texas Law and Statutes – www.texasonline.com
- Texas State Agency List – www.tsl.state.tx.us