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What are my rights as a homeowner of a brand new build where the floors are buckling after only a few months and contractor won't fix?

FloridaPayment Disputes

Hello. I built a brand new home, obtained CO Aug 31, 2018. In end of June, at this point the build was almost 5 months delayed due to hurricanes, rain, lack of subs...you name it. As a result, many things were done out of order, one in particular was laying the bamboo wood flooring. The sub for this work laid it without, A, climatizing the wood because the A/C wasn't even on yet when they put it down and didn't go on for roughly ten days later; and, B, they used the wrong glue. I questioned all of this at the time, but all I got was excuses and bullying and contractor telling me it was fine. There was nothing I could do but trust him. A few weeks after the A/C finally came on, the wood started to buckle in a few areas. So, of course I had to go to my contractor and the floor installer. They made 3 different attempts in 3 different areas to fix it by squirting glue into the seams with a turkey baster and laying weights on the areas. Some of it worked but left cupping at the seams, and some failed. I was really upset, asked it to be lifted up and reinstalled properly. My contractor refused, stating it was a manufacturer's problem, cheap flooring from China, etc., and go to them and lodge complaint. I did. They helped. Said first I needed an expert certified floor inspector's report. I did that. Floor inspector found it wasn't climatized, used wrong glue, did not do joints right, and a host of issues. It's glued to concrete on first floor, so that's not buckling but it's cupping. 2nd and floor are buckling. One room go so bad, it is like mountains and valleys in there. There's slight buckling in lots of other places, but more what's happening is the wood is just loosed, not glued to floor, hollow feeling, bouncy in numerous places all over the two floors. I've been told it will never work they way they were trying to fix it. Once they shoot glue in one seam, it pops up somewhere else. I had to put a stop to the repairs while exploring all this, and once I got the independent report, I asked them to pick up the weights and dehumidifiers and everything else they were leaving around and get out. In the midst of this, everything else was done, CO was issued, builder went away on vacation and told me to go ahead and move in and he would address the floor issue again when he got back from vacation. I have not let him back in based on the report and my feeling he will just bully me into letting his sub come back in and keep doing the same thing. I got an attorney. Now the attorneys are going back and forth. We are following the F.S. 558 construction law in Florida, but the contractor is only offering to fix one half of one room and basically ignoring the certified independent report. He's refusing to do anything else and now blaming on me moving in too soon, breaching the contract, etc., etc. It's very stressful. I have held back money, but I have a beautiful expensive home and cheap, poorly paid floors because of what they did and I'm not sure what to do next. No lien has been filed against me. All I want is the floor fixed and the costs to move out, etc., and they are refusing even though clearly they were wrong and I have tons of emails and proof. Any suggestions?? Thank you.

1 reply

Nov 5, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about that, it sounds awful. Considering an attorney has been hired and there have been negotiations between attorneys on both sides, I'm not sure how much more value I'll be able to provide. Ultimately, since they have all of the relevant documentation and other information at hand, they're in the best position to determine how best to move forward. However, there are some options that should be considered. Obviously, the first option should typically be to negotiate and try to resolve the dispute amicably. However, if that's not possible, escalating the dispute via a strongly written demand letter, with a claim against the contractor's bond, or taking the dispute to small claims court could all be options. Regarding a demand letter - threatening specific legal action if the issues are not resolved can go a long way. When a demand is sent by an attorney and sets a clear timetable for action, it might be enough to convince the other side to resolve the dispute. Further, if the flooring contractor was bonded, making a claim against their bond could provide some relief. Depending on the amount at issue, small claims court could be an option - it operates much more efficiently than traditional litigation providing relief more quickly as well. However, small claims court actions will only be available for claims $5,000 or less, plus small claims court can be risky. If the contractor is licensed, threatening to make a complaint with their licensing board could provide a little leverage as well - though when a dispute is advanced, that could be relatively ineffective. Regardless, making a complaint to the licensing board could be effective to at least punish a subcontractor who has performed poor work. Ultimately, though, it'd probably be most valuable to take the time to sit with your attorney and have them lay out every potential option for moving forward - considering they're familiar with the facts and circumstances, they will be able to give the best route for moving forward.
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