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Advice when dealing with Homebuilder? (Longish)
Old 09-11-2009, 11:40 AM   #1
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Advice when dealing with Homebuilder? (Longish)

We (DW and I) had a house built about a year and a half ago, and we've had a few issues with it ever since. Our homebuilder has been a decent guy all along, but we're not getting the results we want. Now we're suspecting he might be on his way out of business, and we hoping y'all can give us advice on how to proceed.

Our main issue is that there is a water leak/seepage issue when we have really bad storms (5 times in 1 1/2 years). Our living room is 2 stories, and we have a sliding glass door with a big picture window over it. The water seeps in either through or around the upper window and drips down from the frame around the slider. We've had wall damage, as well as our hardwood floors. Hopefully not mold, though. We put the dehumidifier there every time it happens. Right now he's blaming Anderson Windows, so we'll have to see what happens there. And even though this is past the one year construction warranty period, it's been an ongoing problem since within a couple of months of the completion of the home. He's worked on it 3 other times, so it's just a continuation. If it turns out to be Anderson, in our opinion he should be the one fighting with them, as they were his supplier. He should also fix all the peripheral problems, and go after them to get his reimbursement. Am I right about this?

There are a few other issues too, including a partial or complete replacement of our composite material deck, due to faulty installation. He has put into writing that he will do the work by May 2010 to give him time to get past the slow period. But he may not last that long.

We're going to continue to work with him to get a resolution, but we're getting a bad feeling. He's closed his storefront, and he's saying things like our homeowners insurance should cover the floor damage (it won't). He's been slurring his words recently, and I suspect he may have had a minor stroke. So what we want to do is start a process where if he goes out of business we'd be high up on the list of creditors, assuming there's any blood in this turnip.

What we've done so far - checked his license (still valid). Read the construction contract, which clearly spells out his responsibility. We're putting together documentation of the problems and attempted solutions, as well as conversations we've had (from memory, as best we can). We know he's insured, but we haven't found the name of the insurance company yet, as we're trying to do all this without him finding out. I've checked the BBB. They don't have him listed, and there aren't any complaints. We're looking for a lawyer, just for advice at this point. But this is a small, incestuous area, so all the lawyers and business owners are friends or went to school together. I don't want it to get back to him while we're still on a relatively friendly business basis.

If any of y'all have been through this sort of thing or have any advice, I'd appreciate it. For all I know he'll come through just fine, albeit with a lot of pissing and moaning. But we both are getting a bit of a bad feeling about this, and want to hedge our bets. I'm looking forward to hearing what the group mind has to say. TIA.
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:53 PM   #2
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harley......

Is the builder himself a tradesman, such as a carpenter? Or is he simply a businessman who never picks up a tool himself?

Does your warranty clearly state that the builder is responsible for the warranty of all material as well as labor?

Does the builder have any houses under construction now? If not, how long has it been since he did? Are there other houses in the area he built where you could contact the owner and see how well he handled issues for them?

Consider adding to your to-do list getting estimates from contractors for getting the repairs done. Contact Anderson Windows and ask them for advise.

My opinion is that you're being too casual about the passage of time and are too worried about avoiding confrontation. The deck was constructed poorly 1.5 yrs ago and he doesn't want to fix it for another 7 - 8 months? He wants the delay because things are slow? Wait until you try to get him to do it when he's busy! It isn't uncommon for builders to go out of business leaving zero, na-na, zilch behind in assets for creditors to fight over. I'd pick up the pace if I were you.
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Old 09-11-2009, 01:13 PM   #3
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I had a builder go belly-up just after completing our house. He went bankrupt. Auctioned off everything. Long list of creditors. I know any problem I have will not be his concern. Wouldn't matter when I got in line ... too many creditors.

Always better to work with someone; but the leak should be fixed NOW ... get a second quote for the work. If the costs are reasonable hire someone else. Then you'ld have to sue to recover your costs. Not sure you can win that one (outside the warrantee period) but at least the leak is fixed.

If the deck floor trumps the window leakage then wait until after May 2010 to bring in someone else. If he blows-off the written agreement, he'll never honor a verbal aggreement.
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Old 09-11-2009, 03:59 PM   #4
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I think the window leakage is the most critical. I'm giving him a couple of days to get back to us and see where we go with it.

He's been pretty honorable up to this point, so I hesitate to do something like just sue him. He's been a builder for a long time, with a lot of roots in the community. The warranty specifically states that he's responsible for the work (including subs) and quality of the materials. I really don't think he's trying to scam us, I just am afraid he's going under and we'll get stuck. I would particularly like to see if we can get a claim on his insurance while he's still got it. So we're working on finding out his insurance company. The MD Home Improvement Licensing dept. won't give us that information. I've got a call in to see if our construction loan company has it on record. We're also looking for a lawyer/mediator to give us some advice. My insurance company doesn't sound too promising, since they have standard exclusions for things like faulty materials and workmanship. If a tree fell on us they'd cover it, but the nearest big tree is 500 ft away.

I just thought that anything that there is to experience has already been experienced by somebody on this forum, so I'm just hoping to learn from others' experience.
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Old 09-11-2009, 10:24 PM   #5
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Harley, I was an owner builder on our project, and subbed out a large part of the major work (masons, framing, roof, a bit of finish carpentry) through one big general contractor in the area. He was our landlord during the project and worked the parts he did for cost + 10%. It was a good deal, but I knew going in that if stuff was bad, I'd play hell getting him out here.

The mechanicals and all that I hired myself, including the plumbers (rat b@$t@rds) that stole all our tools and our tractor late one night.

I tried to get the insurance for the plumbers to pay for the stolen stuff, and thought about suing them. And then had a good lawyer friend tell me life was too short and I should just move on.

I think you probably need to get a place ready in your head to have to resolve all of this yourself. If you get a reasonable resolution, great, but you should probably gear up for a worst case scenario just in case.

And I'm sorry, because it does suck to expect good work and get crappy work instead. I swear the times I had to raise holy hell to get something done right...yeah, this was my last general contracting job, that's for sure. It has been 6 years and I'm still irritated with the whole process. We love our house, but if anything is wrong, we are totally stuck with it.
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Old 09-12-2009, 08:32 PM   #6
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I appreciate that, Sarah. Actually, the builder has done excellent work for the most part, and been very responsive up to now. We've just have a bad feeling about the big things on the list combined with the economic meltdown (really bad for builders around here) and maybe health problems complicating it all.

Interestingly enough, we were working out in the front yard today and a car full of people stopped to talk to us. They are planning to build a home in the area, and our guy is one of their two choices. I assume if he gets the job he'll have the money to take care of us. We were very helpful and complimentary.

But I have made that space in my head where we may end up eating the cost. No matter what, the leak has to get fixed. If worst comes to worst, I'll have to tent camp at Floydfest next year instead of renting an RV.
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Old 09-13-2009, 10:18 PM   #7
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Sounds like it's not a window problem (Anderson) but a flashing problem. (installation)

If it was me I'd go small claims after I got another quote on fixing it. You may not have mold but rot. I would not wait through a rainy winter season for him to get solvent. At this point I would want to pull siding off to see the bare wood. Need to anyway to reflash the window.

It doesn't really take long to start in and only gets more $$ from here

good luck
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Old 09-14-2009, 10:52 AM   #8
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I agree with Scrapr. My neighbor's windows were flashed poorly and he is going through a major repair now. Major rot on a corner support post and much of the wood on the back and side of the house.
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Old 09-14-2009, 05:13 PM   #9
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Yes, stay on top of that dripping water issue and get it resolved ASAP. Don't worry about feeling like a bad guy here, the important part is to save yourself a mountain of repair expense down the road. He may end up stopping the drip, but does he fix the whole problem? Here's what happened to our sliding glass door that went out to a 12 x 12 foot deck when the proper flashing and Tyvec wasn't put on the house:




After removing the door and deck, and installing a standard single door and stair case (all work done by myself) the problems are fixed. But the OSB was so wet underneath that you could literally poke a finger through it. Here's the updated version, during construction that has now been completed.

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