It’s understandable that new homes are alluring. After all, new homes are modern and efficient. And there is the idea that new homes require minimal maintenance for the first year of ownership. But new homes are not flawless.
Last week’s Florida’s Attorney General settlement with PulteGroup, Inc and its subsidiaries is the latest reminder that new home buyers need due diligence. The multi-million-dollar settlement came after a two-year investigation. A simultaneously complaint alleges that the home builder violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by: failing to disclose to certain home buyers in Florida that the homes were being constructed in violation of applicable building codes; unfairly denying certain homeowners’ repair claims for various reasons: unfairly denying certain Florida homeowners’ repair claims without performing an adequate inspection of the home; and unfairly withholding a customer’s deposit in certain instances. The details of the settlement can be found in the Florida AG’s December 28th news release (myfloridalegal.com). The settlement comes two year after the Florida AG entered into a settlement with KB Home in 2016 for similar alleged complaints.
Home builder complaints are more common than you think. In fact, Home builder complaints occur throughout the country alleging violations that may include (but not limited to): code violations, improper warranty denials, and improper handling of deposits.
Maryland’s Attorney General fined NVR Inc in 2012 because it was alleged that required warranty protections were omitted from their subsidiary new home contracts. A number of other home builders were fined that year for failing to register with the Consumer Protection Division’s Home Builder Registration Unit. And in 2016, the Maryland AG filed charges against a Rockville home builder for alleged violations of the Home Builder Registration Act, the Maryland Express and Implied Warranties Act, and the Consumer Protection Act. And more recently, the Maryland AG filed charges in September against a Baltimore County home builder for allegedly “failing to comply with Maryland’s Home Builder Registration Act, Consumer Protection Act, and the Custom Home Protection Act.”
Unfortunately, many home buyers let their diligence lapse when buying a new home. New home builder reps are friendly, helpful and often appear to be on your side, so it’s understandable how a home buyer may misconstrue the builder rep’s loyalties. However, when buying a new home, you should conduct your due diligence. You should also consider hiring a Realtor and a licensed home inspector to assist you through the new home buying process.
When buying a Maryland new home, you should know that the state regulates home builders. Before considering a home builder, make sure that the home builder is registered with the Consumer Protection Division’s Home Builder Registration Unit. Before entering into a contract with the home builder, review and understand the contract. You may want to consult an attorney to make sure that your Maryland new home contract complies with the state requirements.
You should also keep in mind that Maryland has established a Home Builder Guaranty Fund that is overseen by the Consumer Protection Division. The fund allows consumers to seek recourse “for losses resulting from an act or omission by a registered builder who constructs a new home for a consumer.” For additional information about due diligence when buying a new home and obtaining the handbook “Buying a New Home, Consumer Rights and Remedies Under Maryland Law,” contact the Maryland Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/CPD).