Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: Last year, I bought a brand new home. Within months, the concrete pavement began to crack. When I reported this to the builder, he sent a repairman who applied a thin layer of cement over the driveway, porch, and patio. Now this topping is cracked, and pieces of it are breaking off everywhere. Another contractor gave me a bid of $4700 just to replace the driveway. Now that my one-year warranty has expired, do I have recourse against the builder? Lynda

Dear Lynda: The builder’s liability did not end when the one-year warranty expired because you reported the defective concrete while the warranty was still in effect. The fact that the builder “attempted” to correct the problem does not absolve him of liability. His obligation was to rectify a construction defect, not to make a substandard pretence of repair.

Anyone with a professional knowledge of concrete knows that you cannot apply a thin overlay of cement and expect it to adhere or to remain intact, especially on pavement that bears the weight of moving vehicles. Cracking and detachment of the added cement were predictable and inevitable.

If the concrete needs replacement, your builder may need convincing to accept that expense. If he is unwilling, you should seek legal advice from an attorney who specializes in construction defect law. You should also obtain a detailed inspection report on the entire property from a qualified, experienced home inspector. Who knows what other defects remain to be disclosed?

Most people who buy new homes do so without hiring a home inspector. They assume that a brand new home is unlikely to have defects and that the builder’s warranty eliminates the need for an inspection. Both assumptions are false. All new homes have defects, and you can’t take advantage of the warranty if you don’t know what the defects are. An inspection report now will inform you of defects not yet discovered and will enable you to submit a full package of repair demands to the builder.

Dear Barry: Six months ago, I sold my penthouse condominium. The roof had some leak problems that were never corrected by the builder, but I sold the property “as-is.” Lately, we’ve had some heavy rains, and now the buyer wants me to repair the roof, even though he agreed to an “as-is” purchase. Am I responsible for repairing the roof? Mike

Dear Mike: In today’s real estate market, “as-is” no longer means what it did in the past. “As-is” used to mean “take it or leave it and buyer beware.” Today it means “here is a complete list of the defects for your acceptance or refusal.”

If the “as is” purchase of your condo was made with the fully disclosed understanding that the roof needs repairs, then the buyer is responsible for the roof. If he was not told that the roof had outstanding defects, then you are liable for nondisclosure and should assume responsibility for roof repairs.