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All day long, I speak with clients who have experienced the ultimate nightmare with their residential builder. I am talking about bowing walls, cracked foundations, water intrusion, mold infiltration, collapsing roofs, broken exteriors, wrong size rooms, incorrect ceiling elevations – and that is just a partial list!

Once I get through the “parade of horribles”, the clients invariably disclose the following: the builder denies liability, blames the client, refuses to honor the warranty, or says they don’t qualify, comes to the home but makes it worse, is abusive – particularly to women, says that there is no liability under the contract – and again, this is just a partial list.

If the above sounds like your situation, read on!

You can reduce or even avoid your risk of things going wrong by following the below recommendations before selecting your contractor and, critically, prior to signing the construction contract. Here are the most important considerations:

Avoid small and undercapitalized builders –

Please follow this advice. Not all small builders are incompetent or fraudsters, but they lack the resources to make you whole if a problem arises. This is not to say that the largest contractors are stellar – they most certainly are not, and my Firm has sued most of them. However, they have the financial resources to fix the problem. Even if you get a lower price, go with a regional or national company.

Have an experienced construction lawyer review your contract before signing! –

This is critical as the terms can destroy your rights and it is hard for even the best attorneys to work around them. The contract language is deliberately confusing and even some lawyers are confused. Without intervention and striking the bad clauses, you will give up your rights to recover damages, repair critical items, and even your right to go before a public court. The contract language in most of these builder agreements is shocking. When you are buying your dream house with your life savings or any investment, it makes sense to have a lawyer review the contract to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

The builder is not your friend –

They are always warm and friendly before you sign on the dotted line and then things change radically. Do not worry about offending them in any way by seeking the advice of counsel. If they react negatively, immediately jettison all communications, and find another builder. Please follow this advice literally!

Don’t rely on emails with the builder! –

This is a critical mistake as clients will often refer to emails or text messages to explain the terms of the contract. Guess what? These emails will never see the light of day in court because under all contracts, they are excluded as the terms of the written contract govern all disputes.

Bottom Line:

Follow the above steps before selecting and signing the homebuilder contract. Before making the biggest financial investment in your life, consult with an experienced construction attorney.

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