You hired a contractor to install a brand new roof on your house. You’ve paid him; you’re happy, the contractor is happy but then the first big rainstorm hits. Leaks everywhere and the rain damages your walls and floors. Angry you call your attorney and demand suit be filed immediately. But there’s a catch. Your lawyer can’t because New Hampshire has a residential construction defects dispute resolution requirement, RSA 359-G.
This article will briefly set forth the main provisions of RSA 359-G.
Before a homeowner may commence a legal action against a contractor, the homeowner must provide a written notice of claim to the contractor. The written notice of claim must be submitted 60 days before any action may be initiated in court.
The written notice must state that the homeowner is asserting a construction defect and is providing notice of that claim pursuant to RSA 359-G. It must also describe the claim in detail, explaining the nature of the defect and the consequences arising from the defect. If the homeowner has any evidence in his or her possession depicting the nature or cause of the defect, it has to be included with the notice.
Once a contractor receives notice, he or she has 30 days to provide a written response which also must include any evidence in the contractor’s possession regarding the nature and cause of the defect. The response must also: (a) offer a settlement; (b) reject the homeowner’s claim; or (c) propose an inspection of the home. If the contractor rejects the claim or fails to respond, the homeowner can then bring suit.
If the contractor wishes to inspect the home, the homeowner has 15 days to decide whether to permit inspection. The contractor, if given written permission from a homeowner, may conduct testing which may include destructive testing. If a homeowner permits destructive testing, then the contractor must give advance notice and once done return the home to its pre-testing condition as is reasonably practicable. The contractor may only perform further tests if the homeowner consents.
Fifteen days after testing is completed, the contractor must disclose the results if he or she has them. Along with this disclosure, the contractor must either: (a) offer to settle by paying money; (b) offer to fix the problem along with some payment; or (c) state the defect will not be remedied. The homeowner has 30 days to accept any settlement offers. After 30 days, the offer is deemed rejected. If the homeowner accepts the contractor’s offer but the contractor doesn’t pay, then the homeowner may institute an action and may also file the settlement with the court. Filing the settlement creates a rebuttable presumption that a binding agreement was entered into by the parties. If the homeowner receives written notice that the contractor will not remedy the situation, the homeowner can then proceed to court. If the homeowner wants to reject an offer, he or she has to provide written notice of rejection. If a homeowner rejects an offer and then recovers less than the offer, the contractor will be deemed the prevailing party for costs and fees.