Anyone who remembers the housing boom that occurred prior to 2008 remembers that houses went up very quickly. It was impressive then to see the speed at which a vacant lot could be turned in to a housing development. Ten years down the road, what is less impressive is the track record of national homebuilders such as Lennar Homes, as those homes are now showing latent defects in construction around the time that the homeowners’ legal options are running out.

New Home, New Problems

You would think that by buying a new home you would not be buying other people’s problems. Buying a new house means that everything is exactly that – new. From foundation to chimney top you feel assured that you’re not going to have old pipes breaking, old wiring shorting out, or problems from that termite infestation 10 years ago. While Florida strengthened its building code in the wake of hurricane Andrew, recent problems coming to light with homes built during the last housing boom before the recession is stirring a lot of discussion around what is called the 10 year statute of repose.

What’s That?

Essentially, the 10 year statute of repose is a lawyer’s delight, it’s a big chunky paragraph in the middle of a very detailed statute. It is a period of time that can run from the date that the owner takes possession, the date of the certificate of occupancy, the date of completion by the contractor, whichever of these dates is latest. The action against the builder must be initiated within 10 years of taking possession, not 10 years after the defects begin to show. So even if you bought the home 11 years ago, and the defects have not made themselves known until now, you may be out of luck as far as taking the builder to court.

Advice for Buying New Construction

If you are shopping for a new home and looking at new construction, or even extensively renovated building, is vitally important to speak with your independent insurance agent and to look up the track record of the builder. You may also want to know about the contractors and subcontractors who were hired to work on the job. Very often, these defects are not found after an inspection, as they are in the building’s central structure, hidden from view. As an example, the Chinese drywall cases constitute a latent defect that could not have reasonably been discovered during inspection.

Insurance Issues

Homebuilders generally carry insurance that will cover them in the event of latent defects coming to light. Homeowners can protect themselves by talking to their agent about a homeowner’s insurance policy that encompasses latent defects in construction and inherent vices. While one may question the overall possible risk of these two conditions applying to a new home, the risk is still present and has the possibility of being financially devastating. Speak seriously with your agent about a comprehensive insurance plan to keep all your assets and property covered.