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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 116713
Experience:  Licensed attorney practicing landlord-tenant, land use and other real estate law and litigation.
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My house is leaking rain water. It has destroyed my hardwood

Customer Question

My house is leaking rain water. It has destroyed my hardwood floors in my kitchen and family room. The house was built 8 years ago. The leaks are due to a building error and if not corrected I'll soon be standing with no walls. I have three homeowners insurances but not one will step up. I consider this to be a structural problem. I'm 70 years old and on a limited income. I need HELP. Any suggestions to remedy my dilemma would be greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
Under NC G.S. § 1-52, there is a 3 year statute of limitation from the time you discover the defect to sue a contractor/builder for breach of contract/negligence for their construction.
Unfortunately, there is another statute that applies and it is called a "statute of repose," which is the time you have to discover a hidden defect in NC for a construction issue. Under NC law, for any claim “arising from damage to real property,” there is a six-year statute of repose. If the claim is not brought within this period, then it is barred in its entirety. G.S. § 1-50(a)(5)a.
This means that while you may have 3 years from date of discovery of the defect to sue for negligence from the construction defect, if you did not discover the defect within 6 years of the construction, your claim would be barred by the statute of repose. It also means that if you discover the defect within 5 years, you have only 1 year to sue for the defect. Now, if the contractor came out to try to fix the problem during the 6 years and claims that they fixed the problem, but it continues, then this would extend the statute of repose based on that attempt at repair. The NC Courts hold, “A statute of limitations is tolled (stopped) during the time the contractor endeavors to make repairs to enable the product to comply with a warranty.” Haywood St. Redevelopment Corp. v. Harry S. Peterson, Co., 120 N.C. App. 832,
837-838 (1995) (where defendant, who waterproofed parking deck, continued to attempt to repair the waterproofing through 30 November 1990 and this action was filed in 1992, well within the three year statute).
If your house is 8 years old, unless the contractor came out within the 6 year statute of repose to try to fix the leak, any suit against the builder would be barred. If the contractor came out to try to fix the leak within the first 6 years, you could have an extension of time based on the time when the contractor came to fix the problem and failed to do so.
So, because you cannot sue the builder, you would need to look at the insurance companies for coverage. Typically, homeowners coverage will provide coverage for damage CAUSED by the defect, but not the defect itself, but this varies by insurance policy.
What were the grounds that your insurance company refused the claims and did you look through the policies to determine what they provide coverage for in this situation? If you are not able to understand the policies and as you are on a limited income, you can go to the local legal aid office or sometimes your local senior citizen center and they have attorneys there who can read the insurance policies to explain coverage to you and whether or not the insurance should provide coverage and what they will or will not provide coverage for.

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