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Some Important Time Frames to Keep in Mind
The Code of Virginia Section 55-70-1(E) requires that a new home be warrantied by the builder for 1 year, "If he is in the business of building and selling such dwellings." If you have a home built with a property owner's permit, this warranty may not apply. This same section of the law requires that the builder warranty the foundation for a period of 5 years. This section does not apply to condominiums. These warranties extend directly from the builder to the buyer and do not pass through the Building Safety and Permits Division.
Under Section 115.2.one of the Uniform Statewide Building Code, notification of Code violation may be served on the responsible party for up to 2 years. The 2-year time period begins either at the date of initial occupancy or closing or the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. Each individual situation may vary depending on the exact circumstances and the portion of the law involved.
What to Do Next
When you have determined that a problem exists, you should:
- Notify the contractor in writing of all problems. Proper notification is very important. You may wish to send a registered letter, return receipt requested, or hand deliver the letter. Keep a copy of the letter and a record of how and when it was delivered. You may wish to consider sending Building Safety and Permits a copy of the letter.
- In the letter establish a reasonable deadline by which the corrective work must be done. Often 30 days is a reasonable time for such work.
- If the corrective work can be done in more than 1 manner, you should request that a written agreement with the General Contractor be reached before the work begins.
- You should establish reasonable guidelines for communications and access.
- Make it clear to the General Contractor in the letter that it is not your responsibility to supervise or coordinate work with a subcontractor unless you specifically agree to do it.
- Documentation before repairs by photograph or video may be wise. If you do either make sure to keep a record of the date the photograph or video was made.
If your problem is complex and/or involves structural components of the home (such as the foundation or load bearing framing) you should consider hiring an engineer to evaluate the problem; and provide you with a written analysis and repair method. Some homeowners perceive this as an unjustified expenditure. While the Building Safety and Permits Division may assist you in identifying a problem, the Building Safety and Permits Division is prevented by law from designing repair methods. If you choose not to hire an engineer then the contractor will be the one who makes the proposal to Building Safety and Permits for how the problem may be fixed. An engineer working for you will hopefully provide an objective and sound recommendation for repairs. An engineer's report may also become valuable if the contractor refuses to correct the problem.
Dealing With a Contractor
If the contractor ignores a letter of notification or fails to complete the corrective work by the requested deadline then you must decide what action is available to you and what action you wish to take if any. Three possible courses of action are:
- You may notify the Building Safety and Permits Division. Building Safety and Permits Division may send an inspector to the home if the condition involves a possible code violation. If a violation is confirmed, and it is within the 2-year period since issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy, Building Safety and Permits Division will notify the contractor to correct the violation.
- You can file a formal complaint with the Department of Professional Regulation (DPOR). This is the state agency that licenses contractors. Call 804-367-9753 or check their website. Note the Contractor's Recovery Fund which this agency administers.
- You may decide to pursue the matter legally by bringing a civil case against the contractor. Most homeowners hire attorneys to do this but some do it on their own. If you decide to hire an attorney ask what will happen and when it will happen.
Please note that the Uniform Statewide Building Code references the IRC One and Two Family Dwelling Code for single-family homes permitted before October 1, 2003, and the International Residential Code for single-family homes built after that date. Please note that the Uniform Statewide Building Code references the IRC One and Two Family Building Codes for construction of single-family homes. This requires work to be done to a code minimum. Code minimums do not address contractual agreements between contractors and homeowners nor do they address any owners association covenants nor do they address aesthetic concerns.
This document is not intended to be an absolute answer for the multitude of possible problems than can occur during the construction and initial occupancy of a new home. Nor is it intended or should it be used for legal or engineering advice. If such advice is needed you should contact a professional in the appropriate field.
Finally, the Building Safety and Permits Division created this document to assist contractors and homeowners in the resolution of problems especially through clear written communication. The Building Safety and Permits Division does not advocate confrontation, legal, emotional, or otherwise as a tool to achieve resolution. It is our sincere hope that contractors and homeowners who are having problems can work together in a spirit of cooperation to resolve all of these issues.