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Put that warranty claim in writing (vetoed bill)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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An 80-year-old Duluth homeowner called his builder to report a problem with his new home within the six-month warranty period. He agreed to the builder’s proposal to defer an inspection until winter was over and the problem could be more easily examined. The builder’s insurance company extensively documented the problem, but did not agree to accept liability. The case went to trial, and eventually the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling against the homeowner based on his failure to give written notice. The retiree paid $250,000 to repair home damages resulting from the construction defect.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that would have allowed a phone call or e-mail, besides a written letter, to serve as adequate “actual notice” in similar cases.

Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton) and Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield) sponsor the bill. Limits would have remained in place to hold builders reasonably harmless, such as the six-month claim period, and if the damage is due to homeowner’s negligence or other factors unrelated to the contractor’s work.

“There is a high level of ambiguity as to how a homeowner conveys an actual notice message. Not having the notice put in writing will lead to disputes as to whether and how verbal notice was provided. A requirement for written notice is a much better approach,” the governor’s veto message stated.


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