What To Look For When Purchasing a Home
By Ian T. Kravitz, Esquire / January 1, 2013
You find the home of your dreams, but cannot help wondering if you have overturned every stone to ensure that your decision does not turn into a nightmare. From a construction law standpoint, there are several potential concerns that should be investigated.
For recently constructed or repaired homes, care is required to ensure that all building costs have been paid by the seller and that you are fully protected under the Florida Construction Lien Law. The Construction Lien Law may allow those who furnished improvements to the property to come after you, even if you made all necessary payments. This can result in liens being placed on the property even though you paid the full contract price. Experience construction law counsel can advise you as to your rights and responsibilities under this law.
Always inspect. Incur the costs to engage qualified inspectors to inspect all areas of your home for defects. Having specialists in electrical, roofing, plumbing, etc. inspect your home completely is worth the upfront cost when considering the potential problems down the line. An inspection of the public records and local permitting records is also crucial. This can provide insight into undisclosed repairs made.
Those can alert you to require intensive inspections as to the extent of the damage, the quality of the repair, and what else the seller may be concealing.
Remember, a title search does not always uncover open permits. If open permits exist, it is possible the work may not have been done according to code. If building codes have since changed, you can even be forced to demolish any improvements and reconstruct them in compliance with current code. Finally, as long as permits remain open on your property, the local building authority can prevent you from obtaining any future permits until all prior permits are closed, and any penalties paid. A qualified real estate attorney should be consulted so that this pitfall is avoided.
You should also ascertain what warranties are being furnished. If you are the original purchaser of a new home, the builder owes to you implied warranties by law. These warranties broadly require that the home be constructed to be habitable; in a workmanlike manner; in compliance with the plans and specifications; and in compliance with the building code. You may also be furnished express warranties from your builder that should be reviewed by legal counsel to ensure that you are getting what you bargained for.
If you are not the original purchaser of a home, implied warranties generally do not pass to you. You need to have any warranties promised in the sale be reviewed to determine what in fact is covered. Some express home warranties are transferable to subsequent purchasers, so inquiry should be made of the seller as to the existence of any such warranties before a contract is executed. Without any express warranties, your only remedy for any later discovered defect may be futile if you cannot prove that the seller of your home knew of such defect(s) and failed to disclose the same to you.
Finally, if you discover any problems or issues that could give rise to a claim against your seller or under any applicable warranty, it is essential to consult counsel immediately so you can ensure that you comply with any statutory or contractual obligations you may have in reporting such claims. Many legitimate claims are lost for failure to satisfy such obligations in a proper and timely fashion. Purchasing a home should be a happy occasion, and with a little help from qualified professionals, there is no reason it should not be.
--- Ian Kravitz of Malka & Kravitz, P.A. (Your Construction Law Firm™) is Board Certified by the Florida Bar as an Expert in Construction Law. He is AV-rated by Martindale Hubbell as possessing the highest possible ratings in both legal ability and ethical standards. A Parkland area resident since 1978, he lives with his wife Dawn and children Madyson and Braeden.
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