Guarantees & Warranties
There is often a lot of confusion about guarantees and warranty work, both on the part of the homeowner and the contractor. Many contractors fail to be clear about the guarantees they make about their finished products. In response to this, the State of Minnesota has a law that says the dwelling shall be free from major construction
defects due to noncompliance with the building standards for a ten year period after the warranty date. Defects caused by faulty installation of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems have a two-year warranty. Everything else has a one-year warranty. All projects are subject to this condition and warranties survive passage of title.
A guarantee is an assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled, especially that a product will be of specified quality or last a certain period of time. A warranty is a written guarantee promising to repair or replace an article if necessary within a specified period of time.
The clarifications that need to be done in the contract can often be many and complicated. What is guaranteed? Who is making that guarantee? Who will service that guarantee? If a product fails, is the work or labor to replace it also a part of the guarantee? A reputable contractor guarantees his workmanship and services, and in addition guarantees all of the work, services and products provided as a part of the project, whether provided by him, his employees, his trade partners or his suppliers. Many times the manufacturer of a product makes guarantees and these become an important part of the equation. For home improvements, the warranty begins when the project is completed, so it is important to know what defines completion.
Some contractors have been known to puff up their warranty or offer longer guarantees as a sales incentive. It does not matter how long the warranty is nor how it reads if the contractor never intends to do any warranty work. This goes back to past issues about the contractor’s stability. Will your contractor be in business as long as necessary to honor your warranties? The homeowner can take action against the contractor for breach of warranty and may recover damages up to the amount necessary to fix the problem.
Unacceptable: The contractor doesn’t have a written warranty. His verbal guarantee is vague and he is hard to nail down on the particulars. His guarantees sound too good to be true, are much longer than anyone else in the industry or seem puffed up.
Good: The contractor has a written warranty that is a part of his contract and it satisfies state law requirements. The obligations of the consumer and the contractor in regards to guarantees and warranties are clearly stated.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has provisions for providing to the homeowner in an organized fashion all of the manufacturers’ warranties for products used in the project. It defines clearly the nature of the warranties for labor, if different than the warranties for materials.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has a process of notifying the consumer a short time before the warranties are due to expire to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed.