After living in your house for a while, you’ll probably notice some wonderful aspects of the design and construction and maybe even some not so wonderful things that you might have done differently next time or that weren’t installed properly to begin with.
This section explains the importance of the one-year correction period and post-occupancy review with your design and construction team.
ONE-YEAR CORRECTION PERIOD
When your general contractor finishes your house, addition, or renovation, his responsibilities don’t end there. While each state’s laws vary, typically a general contractor’s warranty is at least 1 year. The reason for this correctional period (aside from holding your contractor accountable for his work) is to allow you time to notice any problems you may not have caught during the final walk-through. Things such as a roof leak, a cracked foundation, drafty rooms, or site drainage issues may not become apparent until later after a big rain, after the winter cold sets in, or whatever. During this one-year correction period, a contractor is responsible for fixing defects and any problems that arise.
If and when you notice a construction defect, ask your contractor to come to the house to see the problem in person. Discuss how it happened and how to remedy the situation. Sometimes it’s also helpful to involve your architect (if you used one) or engineer if the issues is structural. If you’ve picked a contractor with a good reputation, most likely he/she will want to keep it that way and do what it takes to fix the issue.
If your contractor is dodging the issue and is not likely to fix the problem, you might want to prepare yourself for more lengthy dispute resolution methods. Suggest mediation with a third-party mediator. Prior to mediation, get an outside opinion from one or two experts. If it’s a structural issue, ask an engineer to review it. If it’s a roof leak, as a roofing contractor to come take a look at it. If it’s a cabinetry issue, ask a finish carpenter to review it. It may cost you money out of pocket to hire an expert in the field to perform a site visit, but keep track of your expenses. You can hopefully recoup them later.
If issues can’t be resolved via mediation and it’s worth your time and money to see to it that the issue is resolved by the contractor, get an attorney who specializes in construction. Litigation should be considered a last resort as it’s expensive and time-consuming.
While not required, if your architect/designer requests a meeting with you in your home to conduct a post-occupancy review, it’s a good sign that they are invested in your long-term happiness AND in learning how they can improve their own design skills for future projects.
Post-occupancy reviews are a way for you and your architect to learn what’s working and what needs improvement in the overall design of the home. An architect is always trying to improve his/her craft. This gives the architect the opportunity to learn from experience. And it gives you a chance to voice any concerns regarding the design or offer any praise to the design team.
Post-occupancy reviews are typically conducted within a year of move-in between you and your design team. Like the one-year correctional period for the contractor, a similar time frame for a post-occupancy review gives you the opportunity to live in your house and understand how it works for you. The review process ensures that your home is meeting the design goals set out in the beginning of the project. These goals may relate to sustainability, energy and water conservation, occupant comfort, and operational efficiency.
If you love the way the light comes on in the morning or you’ve found yourself to be more efficient in the kitchen with the new layout or even if you’re not fond of the glare in the evenings, this review gives you the platform to share these observations. If there are things you’re dissatisfied with, your architect/designer may offer suggestions right there on the spot to make the situation better.
ACTION ITEMS FOR THIS SECTION
- Enjoy your dream home! You’ve worked so hard on it.
- If you notice construction defects, have your contractor fix them within the correction period.
- If your design team requests a post-occupancy review, indulge them.
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Over To You…
For years you’ve wanted to fulfill this dream. You’ve done it.
As you think back to when you first started getting ready for this process, you may have been scared, lacked confidence, and were fearful of the outcome. Now, it’s so great to see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown into the person you are today.
Not only do you have this amazing home for you and your family, you’ve also gone through a transformation process yourself. You’re more confident in yourself and your abilities, you’re more informed, and you’re more empowered to take on the world and be your best self. Be proud of yourself. You’ve earned it!