Monday, November 30, 2009

Virginia's Statutory Warranty for New Homes

Purchasers of new homes in Virginia are granted special warranty protections -- by statute -- that purchasers of used homes do not receive (an important parenthetical: since caveat emptor remains the general rule in Virginia, all home buyers are well-advised to hire a licensed inspector and to make their offer-to-purchase contingent on the results of the inspection).

The applicable statute for new homes is Code of Virginia Section 55-70.1 (you can read it here).

As with other special rights granted by the General Assembly, every word of 55-70.1 is important. Unfortunately for careless purchasers, the vendor's liability for defects can be waived if the purchase contract includes the required waiver language and the purchaser signs off on the waiver.


If the vendor is "in the business of building or selling dwellings," then the warranty in 55-70.1 provides that he warrants -- for a period of one year after conveyance of the property (or the date of the purchaser's taking possession, if earlier) -- that the dwelling and its fixtures are:
  1. "Sufficiently free from structural defects, so as to pass without objection in the trade;

  2. Constructed in a workmanlike manner, so as to pass without objection in the trade; and

  3. Fit for habitation"
The warranty against structural defects applies for five years to the foundations of new homes. The terms "new dwelling" and "structural defects" are both defined in the statute. However, as you might imagine, a "structural defect" sometimes lies in the eye of the beholder, and thus the applicability of the statute is not always as clear-cut as one might expect.


Manufacturers of many products in Americas disclaim any warranties as to their product's workmanship and performance -- sometimes, the disclaimers can fill entire pages of legal documentation included in the product's packaging. For that reason, when a legislature sees fit to include a warranty protection for a hugely important investment - a new home - it's particularly important that the buyer be aware of the nature of the protection and discuss with his or her Realtor or attorney what is or is not included.