Builder or Contractor did a poor job? How to seek relief in Georgia (including Right to Repair Act)

Whether it is repairing the clogged toilet, or adding a new wing onto your home, any longstanding homeowner has at least some experience in dealing with a residential contractor. When you are looking for a contractor, many people speak to a few pros before deciding to hire one, hopeful that they made the best decision for price and quality.

Even if you vet the contractor thoroughly, things do not always go as expected. There can be problems with substandard work, higher costs, and unfinished work. There can be delays, problems with permits, and unexpected issues that cause you headaches.

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What happens when things go very wrong? How can a homeowner get the issues resolved? Can the homeowner attempt to address the issue with the contractor? What if the contractor doesn’t listen? Should the homeowner sue? Are there any other alternatives?

Contractor issues in new and existing property can surface in a number of ways. The homeowner may bring an action for failing to use proper materials, inadequate workmanship or performing work that is below industry standards. When a defect of this nature occurs, the homeowner can bring a claim for breach of construction contract. Below is a description of some of the relevant laws in Georgia affecting construction disputes.

Warranties. Georgia law requires that homebuilders and contractors provide a warranty to homeowners prior to construction. The warranty must be written and fully explain the damages to which it applies. The warranty should state how long it is in effect and the process of filing and responding to claims.  This applies to projects that are valued at more than $2500. Typically, a warranty issued by a contractor covers defective workmanship and faulty materials and will not apply to normal wear and tear resulting from use of the home. If the homeowner makes a claim as specified in the warranty and the builder fails to remedy the issue, then the homeowner can seek legal remedies.

Right to Repair Act. A homeowner who wants to file suit against a contractor must follow the requirements set forth in the Right to Repair Act. Under the statute, the homeowner must notify in writing each contractor who performed worked on the home at least 90 days before filing suit. If the construction defect resulted in injury or death, the notice requirement is waived. The contractor must reply in writing within 30 days after notice has been received. The contractor has the option to inspect the property and decide whether repairs are necessary. The contractor may determine that repairs are not necessary and provide a written explanation of his reasons. Alternatively, the contractor may simply refrain from visiting the premises and settle the claim through payment or making repairs. The homeowner can reject the offer to repair the premises, but must provide a written explanation for his decision.

Lawsuit. If actions fail to repair the damage under the Right to Repair Act, a lawsuit may be filed as a last resort. The homeowner may file a lawsuit in the event he declines the settlement offer, the contractor has not fixed the defect or the contractor has failed to respond to the notification. The amount of the damages and the complexity of issues will determine which court to ultimately file.

Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys are qualified in the State of Georgia to navigate contractor disputes on behalf of their clients.  Rest assured that you are in good hands with Thrift & McLemore as we have handled numerous construction cases, and achieved results for our clients countless times. Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you today!

https://consumer.georgia.gov/consumer-topics/right-to-repair-act

Defending a Mechanic’s Lien in Georgia

Hiring a contractor for a home remodel or repair can be at the same time a rewarding and troublesome experience.  On one hand, finally updating that kitchen that looks twenty years overdue is an exciting notion.  On the other, no two contractors are created equal, and often times it seems like most people make the wrong choice.

So what happens when a contractor does a subpar job on your home project, but still expects payment even though it may not be what you contracted for?  Negotiating with the contractor to complete to expectations is one option and negotiating the price down another, but what happens when the two sides simply do not see eye to eye?

All too often in these cases, the contractor files a Mechanic’s Lien on the homeowner’s property.  This legal mechanism offers the contractor a “security” in the home to compel payment by the homeowner.  The lien works to effectively cloud the title in the home, and the law requires that the lien be resolved before the homeowner transfers title of the property.

This legal mechanism works as intended when a contractor successfully delivers on a project for a homeowner and that homeowner simply is not willing to pay.  Other times however, innocent homeowners find themselves battling a lien when it was the contractor who did not meet the terms of the contract.

Although this is never something to look forward to, the filing of a lien does not automatically mean that you must pay the contractor what they demand.  Lien law in Georgia can be quite complicated, and often times these liens are not filed in a manner in which they attach to the property.  If you have recently become aware of a lien filed on your property, check to ensure that all of the following requirements have been satisfied through the filing of the lien:

  • The builder provided the homeowner a preliminary lien notice within a specified number of days of beginning work or delivering materials
  • The mechanics’ lien contained a minimum amount of detail about the debt (the amount, the scope of the services for which payment is due, the homeowner’s name and address, and so forth)
  • The lien was filed with the local county court or registrar of deeds within 90 days of the completion of work.

If these elements are not satisfied, then the lien is void.  If the lien filer did follow all of these steps, their work is still not done.  In order to perfect the lien, or have it fully attach to the property, the filer must commence suit within 365 days of filing the lien.  A failure to do so automatically voids the lien.  Let’s assume that the contractor satisfies all of these steps, now what?

When a contractor commences suit to perfect the lien, it operates similarly to any other lawsuit.  There is a complaint filed, and the defendant is allowed time to answer.  Then commences discovery and the actual hearing.  This presents both sides with another opportunity to settle the matter outside of court, however at this stage it is likely that both parties are entrenched in their position, and the contractor has paid considerable money in the enforcement of the lien by this stage.

By disputing the claim in the lien, you are effectively stating that what the contractor claims is not true.  Was the quality of workmanship subpar, were the materials not the same as agreed upon, or did the contractor not meet other material provisions of the contract?  It is advised that you retain all documentation pertaining to the contract and speak with a qualified attorney who can advocate on your behalf to protect your rights.

If you are experiencing a lien issue on your home and the contents of the lien are under dispute, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have many years’ experience in both filing and defending liens, and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.

Suing for Latent Defects in a Home Purchase in Georgia

Purchasing a home may be one of the most rewarding, yet terrifying transactions that a consumer can make in their lifetime.  It is universally understood for many of us that it is the single largest purchase we will ever make.  A commitment this large can make even the most self-assured buyer uneasy. 

Obvious defects in a home are not as worrisome in this case, as cracked walls and non-working electricity are straightforward to diagnose.  Issues that are less obvious are the ones that keep the would be purchaser up late at night.  These issues are referred to as “latent defects”.  Latent defects are those problems with property that are not visible to the naked eye.  These issues can be wide ranging, like asbestos in older homes, corroded piping that leads to a plumbing leak, or carbon monoxide leaking into the home.

In Georgia, like many states, the seller is required to provide disclosures of all known defects, obvious or not.  The purpose is to inform the cautious buyer of any issues that they may incur, and to avoid purchasing a home with such defects that they will have to fix.  Of course, while this is the law, this is not always followed to the extent a purchaser would like.

What happens when you have bought a home, only to find that latent defects exist and the seller failed to inform you?  While it is an uphill battle, you certainly do have options.  While you cannot seek remedy from everyone involved, there are a select few parties you can seek recourse from:

The Seller – As mentioned above, the seller in Georgia is required to provide disclosures on the home.  This disclosure requires the seller to provide a list of defects on the home that they are aware of, but may not be obvious.  While a seller may later deny that they knew about this, patchwork on drywall found after purchase where a leak has formed is an obvious sign that the seller knew there was an issue.

The Sellers agent – similar to the seller, the agent must disclose when asked of any defects on the home, and while their duties are limited, depending on the circumstances they may be on the hook as well.

The home inspector – While Georgia does not require inspections on the purchase of a home, a prudent purchaser will always have one conducted.  The inspector is a trained individual, who is well versed in home construction and accordingly has a higher aptitude for uncovering these issues.  Depending on the issue, a home inspector may be liable for missing it in their inspection of the home.

So now, you have a latent defect, and there is a responsibility for the parties that have not been met, but do you have a case?  There are certain conditions that need to be met before you can proceed. 

Was the defect there before you bought the home?  General wear and tear on the home is not actionable if the loss merely occurs under your ownership, however if the condition was pre-existing then you should be ok to proceed.  Is it a non-obvious defect that was not disclosed, but a prior party was aware of?  In the example above, plumbing may not always be an obvious issue, but if you later find steps have been taken to repair and conceal, and you relied on the non-disclosure of those parties, this condition will have been met.  Finally, the harmed purchaser must prove damages.  Is there an actual cost of repair, or a decrease in the home’s value as a result of the defect?  This will be what your claim in a lawsuit amounts to.

There are a number of legal theories that you can bring against the responsible parties depending on the situation.  It is recommended to review your case with a qualified attorney beforehand to ensure you are bringing an action on the correct theory.  Some of these claims include failure to disclose, negligence, fraud, breach of contract, breach of warranty, and negligent misrepresentation.

If you have recently purchased a home and discover a latent defect, but are unsure of your options, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys pride themselves on their expertise in the real estate law arena and will fight to get you the recourse that you deserve.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150.

Home Owners: Obtaining Recourse in Georgia from a Failed Home Inspection

Whether you are purchasing your first home or your fiftieth, one of the most important steps in the purchase process is hiring a home inspector.  This inspector will be the one to tell you whether the dream house you recently went under contract on is structurally sound, or contains issues that no longer qualify it as a dream home at all.

Most of us rely on these inspectors to catch every minor detail; after all, that is why you hired them in the first place!  However, what do we do when we have done our research, hired the best inspector we can find, yet defects in the home are still missed?  After all, there is nothing worse than an inspection stating the home you just purchased is in great shape, only to move in and find out that your foundation needs emergency repair, at a great cost.

In the state of Georgia, before immediately taking your grievance to the home inspector, you may have a better claim against the seller.  Although Georgia follows the mantra of “Buyer Beware”, there is a general duty in the state to disclose to would be buyers known defects within the house, especially if they are not easily discoverable.  Sellers could face liability to the buyer for failing to disclose these material defects, so long as it is provable that the defects were known.

Assuming that the seller was not aware of the defect, or there is no proof of fraudulent concealment on their part, then you can look to the home inspector for relief.  There are two general theories to obtain relief from a home inspector from a botched inspection.  Outlined below, these theories are Negligence and Breach of Contract.

Negligence, in any area of the law is generally the failure to act as a reasonable person as someone similarly situated would do.  In this case, if a different home inspector catches the issue at hand (which can be proven by getting a second opinion), then the original home inspector can be found negligent.  The state of Georgia requires all home inspectors to go through in depth training in order to be licensed, so lack of training is no defense.  One thing to consider is that the inspector is only liable to defects within the scope of the inspection.  If the house does not have running water on the day of inspection, the inspector cannot be liable for defects regarding the plumbing in the home.

Breach of Contract becomes a viable claim when the contract that you entered into with a home inspector contains language that you believe was clearly violated.  This could arise when you specifically negotiated to include tests for lead based paint, the inspection came back clean, and you later find evidence pointing to lead based paint in your home.  If you have a contract in writing with the inspector to perform any review, and you can prove that the review was never in fact completed, this would be the proper avenue for legal recourse.

Assuming that you have a valid claim based on the two legal theories above, there are still items to consider.  The home inspector may have inserted a waiver into the contract called an exculpatory clause.  This clause is common among home inspectors, and generally serves to limit liability in the event that defects in the home are uncovered after inspection.  Instead of being on the hook to replace a whole roof, they may simply attempt to refund the home inspection fee.  They may also have an arbitration or mediation provision, which would make it more difficult to file a lawsuit as a first step.

In summary, a failed home inspection in Georgia does not always leave the buyer out in the cold.  There are several avenues to recover losses in the instance that your home inspection did not uncover material defects in your home.  If you are not sure whether you have an actionable case, you should consult with an attorney before taking any action.

If you have questions regarding a home inspection gone wrong, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have represented Georgia home buyers seek legal recourse for defects in their homes not caught by the home inspection.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you today!

Home Owners: Obtaining Recourse in Georgia from a Failed Home Inspection

Whether you are purchasing your first home or your fiftieth, one of the most important steps in the purchase process is hiring a home inspector.  This inspector will be the one to tell you whether the dream house you recently went under contract on is structurally sound, or contains issues that no longer qualify it as a dream home at all.

Most of us rely on these inspectors to catch every minor detail; after all, that is why you hired them in the first place!  However, what do we do when we have done our research, hired the best inspector we can find, yet defects in the home are still missed?  After all, there is nothing worse than an inspection stating the home you just purchased is in great shape, only to move in and find out that your foundation needs emergency repair, at a great cost.

In the state of Georgia, before immediately taking your grievance to the home inspector, you may have a better claim against the seller.  Although Georgia follows the mantra of “Buyer Beware”, there is a general duty in the state to disclose to would be buyers known defects within the house, especially if they are not easily discoverable.  Sellers could face liability to the buyer for failing to disclose these material defects, so long as it is provable that the defects were known.

Assuming that the seller was not aware of the defect, or there is no proof of fraudulent concealment on their part, then you can look to the home inspector for relief.  There are two general theories to obtain relief from a home inspector from a botched inspection.  Outlined below, these theories are Negligence and Breach of Contract.

Negligence, in any area of the law is generally the failure to act as a reasonable person as someone similarly situated would do.  In this case, if a different home inspector catches the issue at hand (which can be proven by getting a second opinion), then the original home inspector can be found negligent.  The state of Georgia requires all home inspectors to go through in depth training in order to be licensed, so lack of training is no defense.  One thing to consider is that the inspector is only liable to defects within the scope of the inspection.  If the house does not have running water on the day of inspection, the inspector cannot be liable for defects regarding the plumbing in the home.

Breach of Contract becomes a viable claim when the contract that you entered into with a home inspector contains language that you believe was clearly violated.  This could arise when you specifically negotiated to include tests for lead based paint, the inspection came back clean, and you later find evidence pointing to lead based paint in your home.  If you have a contract in writing with the inspector to perform any review, and you can prove that the review was never in fact completed, this would be the proper avenue for legal recourse.

Assuming that you have a valid claim based on the two legal theories above, there are still items to consider.  The home inspector may have inserted a waiver into the contract called an exculpatory clause.  This clause is common among home inspectors, and generally serves to limit liability in the event that defects in the home are uncovered after inspection.  Instead of being on the hook to replace a whole roof, they may simply attempt to refund the home inspection fee.  They may also have an arbitration or mediation provision, which would make it more difficult to file a lawsuit as a first step.

In summary, a failed home inspection in Georgia does not always leave the buyer out in the cold.  There are several avenues to recover losses in the instance that your home inspection did not uncover material defects in your home.  If you are not sure whether you have an actionable case, you should consult with an attorney before taking any action.

If you have questions regarding a home inspection gone wrong, give us a call!  Thrift & McLemore’s attorneys have represented Georgia home buyers seek legal recourse for defects in their homes not caught by the home inspection.  Contact Thrift & McLemore by email at [email protected] or by phone at 678-784-4150 to discuss how we can help you today!

Atlanta’s No. 2 home builder Century Communities merging with builder UCP

David Allison
Editor
Atlanta Business Chronicle

Century Communities Inc. (NYSE: CCS), the No. 2 homebuilder in metro Atlanta, said today it will merge with builder UCP Inc. (NYSE: UCP) in a deal valued at $336 million, including the payment of certain indebtedness.

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