If building your dream home has turned into a nightmare, you’re not alone. Many new homeowners waiting on their contractors end up dealing with missed deadlines, late work, improper or poor-quality materials, shoddy construction work, and other similar issues. These ultimately affect the habitability of the end home.
Here’s what you should know about construction defects, Implied Warranty of Habitability, and if the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute factors in. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, our veteran consumer rights lawyers can help you.
Common Home Construction Defects
There are many ways in which an architect, designer, developer, contractor, or construction worker can make a home inhabitable. The most common home construction defects include but are not limited to the following major issues:
- Leaking façade, including water leakage in the walls and/or window frames
- Doors and windows with drafts or poor insulation and installation
- Use of inferior building materials that break down too soon under normal wear and tear
- Inadequate ventilation that causes home heating or cooling to be expensive, ineffective, or both
- Cracks in the interior drywall, exterior stucco, or both
- Building code violations
- Improper electrical wiring that results in overloaded circuits or electrical fires
- Warped flooring due to improper installation of wood floors, vinyl, laminate, carpeting, and other types of floors
- A poorly designed roof that fails to protect the interior of the home
- Inadequate drainage around the foundation that causes flooding of the basement or lower levels of the home
What Is an Implied Warranty of Habitability?
In Massachusetts, the Implied Warranty of Habitability applies to all new home construction. It protects buyers of newly constructed houses against exploitative developers, predatory contractors, and unscrupulous sellers by going above and beyond standard contract terms.
As it relates to new residential development in Massachusetts, the Implied Warranty of Habitability applies and cannot be waived, negotiated, sold, or canceled. It holds that a new home construction owner can, within three years of moving into the home, file a claim against any developer, contractor, designer, or other interested party whose negligence or error caused the dwelling to become inhabitable.
Albrecht v Clifford, 436 Mass. 706 (2002)
The landmark case of Albrecht v Clifford, 436 Mass. 706 (2002) established Implied Warranty of Habitability and its statute of limitations when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that “an implied warranty of habitability arises out of a contract for the sale of a newly constructed residence by a builder-seller and set forth the factors that a buyer will have to show to establish a breach of the implied warranty” within a reasonable period of time. In this case, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Albrecht purchased a single-family home in 1993 that had been newly constructed. The home contained nine fireplaces, which were later found to be defective.
The Albrechts filed a breach of contract lawsuit, stating that the purchase agreement inherently implied that the residence would be constructed in a “good and workmanlike manner” and that general contractor and architect Alfred Clifford did not meet this contractual obligation.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the defendant based on constraints brought on by the statute of limitations in similar cases. Plaintiffs now have a three-year time frame in which to file a claim against an alleged at-fault party for breach of Implied Warranty of Habitability.
How Does the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute Apply?
These disputes frequently also come under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute, M.G.L. c. 93A, which mandates the sending of a demand letter at minimum 30 days before filing a lawsuit under the statute. Consumers may benefit from using c.93A in civil disputes if the vendor does not offer a reasonable settlement within 30 days of the receipt of a c.93A demand letter, the court may double or even treble the damages granted to the impacted consumer.
When Are Contractors Not Responsible for Construction Defects?
In some cases, a designer, builder, or other contractor may not be responsible for a construction defect that has made the home inhabitable. Examples of this might be property damage:
- That occurs as a consequence of the homeowner’s own failure to maintain the property or their abuse of the property
- Caused by other workers or contractors in the house
- Resulting from an “act of god,” such as a hurricane or tornado
- Resulting from an accident, such as a house fire
- Caused by any appliances or personal belongings that the homeowner brought into the residence
In cases where a home has become inhabitable by one or more of the above issues, the homeowner may not have a claim under Implied Warranty of Habitability.
Contact Experienced Consumer Protection Attorneys Mazow | McCullough, PC
Construction defects can make your dream home unlivable. If you fail to act quickly enough, you may pass the statute of limitations and forfeit your right to file a claim against any contractor responsible for breach of Implied Warranty of Habitability.
Contact our office today to learn more about how consumers can protect themselves against predatory contractors and property damage or to schedule a consultation to discuss your case in more detail. Dial (978) 744-8000 or call us toll free at (855) 693-9084.