Q: We just moved to Atlanta from Minnesota last August. We moved into a new home and have had problems ever since: Once the builder got our money, he hasn’t been around to fix everything.

He did fix some minor problems, but we are still having troubles with out air condition and heating. We noticed that our bedroom and bathroom were very warm in the summer and now that it’s winter, they’re very cold. We finally got an air conditioning specialist out and they found that some of the duct work was not hooked up right in the attic. They fixed it, but there is no heat to our main bathroom.

We will have to tear out the ceiling to find where the problem is. The builder has been advised of this by phone and in writing. We have been advised to contact our County Commissioner, which we did. The commissioner’s office is supposed to send someone out to asses the problem and make the builder fix it.

Is there anything else, other than suing, we can do to make this builder fix the problem?

A: How smart of you to contact the local county commissioner and advise him of the problems you’re having with the builder. If the builder is doing any new construction in the county, and if the commission finds a pattern of problems with the builder’s homes, have the commissioner’s office yank his building permits. That should put him in serious enough financial trouble to get his attention.

Unfortunately, cutting off their ability to work is the only way to get bad builders to fix problems in homes that are supposedly “done.” It’s more effective than suing, and typically takes less time.

In a follow up note, you advised me that the county inspector turned up, agreed with your assessment of the problem, and contacted the builder to turn up and fix the problem – or he would have his permits pulled. Lo and behold, your problem is solved, without you spending a penny in legal fees.

I’m glad this worked out for you. I wish more county commissioners would force wayward builders to stand behind the warranties they give on the the new homes they sell.

Published: Feb 28, 2001