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Understanding construction warranties: What owners should know

Buying a new home or condo provides peace of mind on many fronts. You can trust that there aren't unaddressed issues lingering from decades of wear and tear. You know exactly how long the roof and other critical components have been in place. You don't have to wonder whether the property was neglected or improperly maintained by a previous owner.

However, new construction isn't always smooth sailing. Problems can still arise months or even years down the road. Defects and deficiencies might require costly repairs to remedy. In some cases, these problems may even affect the entire development, whether a condo complex or single-family community.

Warranties play a big role in mitigating the risk of losses. They protect not only individual owners, but also the community as a whole by preserving property values and (in the case of condos) covering components that affect multiple units.

These warranties might be express (that is, guaranteed by contract) or implied (established by law).

Warranties for newly constructed single-family homes

Florida courts have long recognized that new homes must meet certain standards, and when they fall short, builders can be held accountable.

The first purchasers of a newly built home are typically covered by an "implied warranty of fitness and merchantability" (also called a "warranty of habitability"). This means the home must be suitable to live in - both in terms of workmanship and materials.

Builders and developers also provide express warranties. Typically, they provide coverage for up to:

  • 10 years for major structural components (such as the foundation and load-bearing walls)
  • 2 years for electrical, plumbing and HVAC
  • 1 year for labor and materials

Of course, every owner should understand the scope and limits of their own warranty.

Warranties for condos

By statute, Florida law establishes implied warranties for condominium construction and improvements. The implied warranty of habitability covers:

  • Each individual unit for 3 years after completion of the building
  • Improvements for 3 years after their completion
  • The roof, structural components, mechanical, electrical and plumbing for 3 to 5 years (depending on when turnover occurs)

The implied warranty regarding labor and materials covers:

  • The roof, structural components, mechanical, electrical and plumbing for 3 years (excluding the mechanical elements that only serve a single unit)
  • 1 year for all other materials and improvements

These are only the minimum requirements for coverage; there might be express warranties that offer greater protections.

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