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Rhode Island Supreme Court Establishes Strict Time Limit to Buyers’ Claims Based on the Implied Warranty of Habitability

Buyers of a new or previously occupied home in Rhode Island may enjoy several distinct legal protections from loss in the event that the home they purchased is defective, unsafe, or has other unforeseen and expensive issues that must be resolved. In addition to any specific protections granted through the warranty provisions of a purchase contract, buyers may also seek remedy for the negligence of a previous owner, a contractor, an architect, or any other person or organization that completed faulty work on a home. Another protection that Rhode Island home buyers enjoy comes from the implied warranty of habitability, which protects any residential home buyer from an uninhabitable home irrespective of the language of the purchase contract. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently issued a decision on a case concerning the implied warranty of habitability, which ultimately places concrete time limits on when such a claim can be pursued.

The plaintiffs in the recently decided case purchased a home from the defendant, who had constructed the home in 1997. The defendant represented that he was a professional home builder, and that the construction had been completed to the professional standard for a home in the area. In 2013, after noticing slight water damage in a part of their home, the plaintiffs had an inspection performed and learned that a significant portion of their home would need to be replaced because of water damage that would have been prevented if the home was properly constructed.

The plaintiffs sought damages from the defendant by filing a multi-claim lawsuit against the builder of the home. In addition to breach of contract and tort claims, the plaintiff made a claim based upon the implied warranty of habitability. At the trial level, all of the plaintiffs’ claims in contract and tort were barred by statutes of limitation, which would not allow such claims to proceed if made more than 10 years after the sale of the home. The plaintiff appealed the ruling on the implied warranty of habitability cause of action to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, arguing that the law was unclear, and that the 10-year time limit should not have started to run until the plaintiff discovered the defect in construction.

While sympathetic to the plaintiff’s issue, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reviewed existing law and considered public policy concerns, and ultimately determined that any cause of action based upon the implied warranty of habitability must be made within 10 years of the purchase of the home. Because the plaintiffs bought the home in 1997, and did not discover the defect until 2013, they will be unable to pursue their claim against the home builder.

When Should You Contact a Skilled Rhode Island Real Estate Attorney?

Although the plaintiffs in the recently decided case are not going to be compensated for the defendant’s shoddy construction work, home buyers in similar situations can and should take action to protect themselves even before negotiating to purchase a home. Although statutes of limitation in Rhode Island limit claims to 10 years, homeowners concerned about specific issues can negotiate a longer warranty time frame as part of a purchase contract. Additionally, performing a comprehensive slate of home inspections prior to purchase can help a home buyer discover any issues before it is too late. If you are looking to purchase a home, the qualified Rhode Island real estate attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo can help you take action to protect your rights and prevent you from getting stuck with unexpected expenses down the road. Contact our offices to schedule a no-obligation consultation with a Rhode Island real estate attorney today by calling 401-300-4055.

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