It can be terrifying to buy a new home. Like most new homeowners, you did the right thing and had your home inspected by a professional. The inspection revealed no problems so you signed the purchase agreement. The home was attractive to you because it had been outfitted with premium fiber cement siding that requires no maintenance, top of the line energy efficient windows, composite decking that is guaranteed to last longer than real wood without yearly maintenance, and roofing shingles that are backed by a 50-year warranty. For the first few years, you were content in your new home and experienced no problems, but soon enough one of more of the products installed on your home starts to fail.
Maybe one of these things has started to happen:
- The seasonal freeze-thaw cycle is causing your siding to warp leaving gaps between the boards and cracks where the product is nailed down. The pre-treated boards are also fading and paint fails to adhere to the surface.
- Your energy efficient windows are prone to leaks, condensation builds up between the panes and mold has begun to grow in the eaves.
- Your composite decking is cracking, has faded drastically, and the boards have begun to curve upward leaving water to pool on the surface.
- Or, the shingles on your roof have started to deteriorate, filling your gutters with granules. The shingles have started curling upward, or cracks are showing. You are desperate to find a solution before water starts leaking into your home and damaging your possessions.
What should you do? Often consumers start by contacting the manufacturer directly but find that the problem persists after the manufacturer has repaired or replaced the defective product. Other times, the manufacturer attempts to settle the warranty claim with the consumer, but the settlement is inadequate as it does not pay for the full replacement cost of the product, not to mention expenses associated with installation and removal of the defective product.
If this has happened to you, it is important to remember that you have rights. Consumers are protected by Uniform Deceptive Trade Practice Acts in most states and may also have common law remedies available such as breach of express and implied warranties. Before you settle a warranty claim with a building product manufacturer and waive your rights, it is wise to contact an attorney that works in this field. There may already be class actions based on the product or there may be widespread complaints about the product that would make a class action viable. Often it is too costly or time-consuming for an individual consumer to file a private lawsuit against a building product manufacturer. In that case, consumers may use what is called a “class action” to hold building product manufacturers accountable to their warranties and seek relief for consumers nationwide.
Finally, you will have an easier time addressing these kinds of problems if you:
- Document the problem (photographs, videos, etc.)
- Collect all the records you have in one place (e.g. warranties, invoices, etc. if you have them)
- Keep records of all communications about your problem including dates, who you talked to, what was said and any documents like email or letters.
Making a house your new home should be a happy and satisfying experience. Hopefully you will not have to deal with these kinds of problems, but if you do, it is good to have a record of what is happening and a plan to address the problem.
Halunen Law’s consumer class action team represents consumers who have defective building products installed on their homes.