4 Steps to Address Bad Work by a Builder – On the House

4 Steps to Address Bad Work by a Builder

By on March 5, 2014
Handling a bad builder

Question

I bought a new house and there are many details that I am unhappy with. Among other things, the linoleum looks crooked, and so does the ceramic tile upgrade in the entry. I have a warranty, and I have complained to my builder. I am not sure what my rights are. The builder tells me that I am complaining about things that are “normal”. Who can I turn to for advice.

Greg

Answer

Consumers have several alternatives that are useful in helping to mitigate the question of what is “normal.”Step One:The first avenue of approach should always be directed to the builder, and even if he has a phone-in complaint service, you should always follow up in writing. When you take the time to calmly and carefully detail your problem, you substantially improve the possibility of getting results: 1) the builder will have a better understanding of what your actual problem is, and can serve you more quickly and efficiently, and 2) he knows that dated documentation is difficult to repute in court. Remember, no matter what has transpired, if you haven’t followed up in writing, you have not completed the first and most important step properly.Step Two: If the builder has not provided good reasons as to why he will not satisfy your request, you are then best served to ensure that your claim is truly a valid one. This end can be achieved by: 1) requesting a courtesy inspection from your local building department (performed at no charge in most areas, for very small fees in others), or 2) hiring a private firm that specialize in home inspections, but this can cost $250 to $450.

Step Three: If step two reveals that your claim may be legitimate, you should notify the builder again (in writing), advising him of your findings (include supportive documentation), and inform him that he must respond within 10 days or further action will be taken. This will usually do the trick.

Step Four (further action): We would hope you don’t get to this point, but if you did, here are other alternatives: A good bet is to notify the Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB) of your dilemma. Do this in writing. Send them copies of all correspondence between you and your contractor, and include a copy of your building department or home inspection report as well. Although the CSLB usually will not respond quickly to matters of small financial significance, this is the best place to look for powerful yet low cost legal assistance.

The Better Business Bureau also can be helpful in these matters. A phone call will prompt them to send you the appropriate claim forms. According to sources at the BBB, 85% of all home improvement claims are resolved to the consumer’s satisfaction.

The American Arbitration Association is another super approach. It’s time-consuming, and it costs about $200 to start the ball rolling, but we feel their pool of special investigators (arbitrators) are quite professional. If the contractor agrees, a hearing (usually at your home) is arranged to include you, your contractor and the arbitrator. Unfortunately, court usually is the next and final step. We hope you aren’t forced to go that far.

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