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Residential real estate warranties in Pennsylvania

Buying or building a new home can be the fulfillment of a dream if the house is soundly built and free from defects. A newly built house can also be the beginning of a nightmare if the builder made mistakes or took shortcuts that affect the quality of the construction. Pennsylvania does not have a statute that requires contractors to extend specific warranties concerning the condition of new residential real estate construction. Instead, buyers must rely upon on common law warranties - that is, warranties created by courts in lawsuits based on construction defects - or upon any express warranties extended by the builder or by a home warranty company.

New houses built in Pennsylvania have a number of common law warranties, including the warranties of habitability and reasonable workmanship. The warranty of habitability requires the builder and the seller of the house to provide a legally enforceable promise that the house is fit to live in, i.e., that the plumbing and electrical systems work, the house is sealed against moisture penetration. The warranty of reasonable workmanship requires the seller and the builder to promise that the house was built in a professional and competent manner, using proper materials and building techniques.

A second type of warranty may be contained in the buyer's contract with the builder (if the home has been custom-built) or in the real estate purchase agreement. These warranties can vary widely from case to case, and the meaning of a specific warranty can be difficult for a non-lawyer to interpret.

Anyone who is contemplating the purchase of a newly built home may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in residential real estate and construction law. A knowledgeable lawyer can interpret warranty language and provide advice on the scope and enforceability of the warranty. In addition, such an attorney can propose warranty language to be inserted into a building contract or sales contract.

Source: NOLO, "New Home Construction Defects in Pennsylvania: Your Rights Against the Builder," Kathleen Davis, accessed on April 30, 2016

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