New Home Warranties and Reasonable Notice

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The idea of reasonability comes up frequently when addressing builders and homeowners. In a previous posting, we looked at what reasonable meant when applied to the builder’s option to pay the homeowner the reasonable cost of a repair. In day-to-day warranty administration, the most common area the idea comes up is when determining a reasonable amount of time.

Reasonable is a legal term, and is defined as what is fair or proper under the existing set of circumstances surrounding the situation. Following from this definition, it becomes evident reasonability is objective, and based on the circumstances at hand. What is reasonable in one situation may not be in another. The primary section of the current warranty booklet that brings up reasonability as a measure of time is IV.C., which addresses access to the home for inspecting and making repairs. The first part of that section reads:

In order to carry out the warranty responsibilities, the Builder/Seller or Warranty Insurer will require access to your home. If your home is in a Multi-Family Building, You agree (after reasonable notice) to allow access to, or within Your Home during normal business hours so repairs may be made to any adjacent unit or Common Element. If emergency repairs are necessary and you cannot be reached within a reasonable time period, You waive such notice…(emphasis added).

Given the examples in the citation, a longer amount of time would likely be considered reasonable in the instance of inspecting a multi-family home due to the circumstances of possibly coordinating appointments around multiple schedules. Conversely, in a potential emergency situation, a reasonable amount of time would likely be much shorter due to the possibility of imminent or further damage.

What can we tell people about reasonable notice?

As mentioned earlier, reasonability often comes up when speaking with builders and homeowners, but in a slightly different manner than addressed in the warranty section above. The most common instance of the question arising is the builder making contact with the homeowner prior to the inspection and/or repair of a reported defect. It is not uncommon for builders to feel 24 hours is reasonable notice, and for homeowners to think one week is, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The Warranty Wizard typically advises three days should be considered reasonable notice. This figure was taken from the 2010 revision of the New Jersey Warranty, which explicitly specified that time period. Again, reasonability depends on the circumstances, but all things equal, three days is a reasonable place to start.