Consumer Information for New Home Buyers
Welcome to the Dept. of Community Affairs' Homebuyer Web page. Here you will find information on the State of New Jersey's New Home Warranty Program, as well as useful links to construction industry standards and other issues important to new home buyers in New Jersey.
- Your Warranty: Eight Things Every Homeowner Should Know
Congratulations on the purchase of your new home. Now that you have had some time to settle in, it is important that you take a few moments to acquaint yourself with your rights under the warranty provided to you under New Jersey's New Home Warranty and Builders' Registration Act.
1. EVERY NEW HOME SOLD IN NEW JERSEY COMES WITH A WARRANTY. The terms of your builder's warranty are specified in detail in the warranty booklet you received at closing or contract settlement. You should familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of the warranty so that you know what to do in the event that you discover problems with your home. As with all warranties, timely action is important. If you did not receive warranty documents, or misplaced them, contact your builder or the administrator of your builder's warranty. If you have trouble obtaining a copy of the warranty booklet, contact the Department at 609-633-6366.
2. FILING DEADLINES. Filing a claim before the deadline is extremely important. If you fail to file on time, the claim will be denied. There are filing deadlines based on the type of defect. All defects in materials and workmanship are covered for the first year. During the second year, problems with the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems continue to be covered. After that, only major structural defects are covered. Do not miss the filing deadline by allowing too much time to pass talking to or corresponding with the builder about a problem. A formal claim must be filed before the deadline to preserve your rights under the warranty.
3. COVERAGE PERIODS. The warranty protects your home from the time of sale (closing) from defects in materials and workmanship for one year; two years against defects in the design and installation of the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems and ten years against major structural defects.
4. DECIDING HOW TO PROCEED. You may file a claim under your warranty or go through the courts to have any problems with your home addressed, but not both; at least for the same defects. This means that if you are suing your builder to have certain defects addressed, you cannot file a warranty claim for the same items. This is called "election of remedy"--it is a choice that you make. You may also wish to notify the local construction official of problems with your home. The construction official can issue Notices of Violation for any items that are violations of New Jersey's Uniform Construction Code. But filing a warranty claim is more advantageous to to the homeowner for two reasons: (1) If the builder fails to correct a problem that is covered by the warranty, the warranty will pay for the correction; and (2) The warranty covers defects in materials or workmanship that may not be violations of the Code.
5. FILING A CLAIM. Notice to your builder is not notice to the warranty administrator and does not count as filing a claim. Talking to your builder and telling him that there is a problem does not count as filing a claim either. To protect your rights, you must take formal action to file a claim before the end of the coverage period--one year for most items. For further information about your warranty coverage and how to file a claim, contact your warranty plan administrator.
6. OTHER WARRANTIES. You may have received other warranties from your builder for items such as appliances, roofing materials and even extensions of coverage. Please review these carefully to determine whether they give you other rights. But do not rely on these other warranties if you need to pursue a claim through the warranty your builder provided pursuant to the New Home Warranty and Builders' Registration Act.
7. TRANSFER OF WARRANTY COVERAGE. The warranty is for the house and should be transferred to the new purchasers when the house is sold. Contact the administrator of your builder's warranty to find out how to ensure that your warranty is properly transferred to the purchaser if you sell the house.
8. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION. Visit the Division of Codes and Standards website for important information and updates on warranty coverage and useful links, or call the Department at (609) 633-6366.
- Warranty Coverage and Claim Filing
Almost everything within the new home itself is covered for the first year, including defective systems, workmanship, materials, appliances, fixtures, and equipment. The mechanical (heating and air conditioning), electrical, and plumbing systems are covered for two years. Major structural defects are covered for ten years. Exclusions include such items as outbuildings, swimming pools, driveways, walkways, unattached patios, fences and landscaping.
First Year- Most items are covered for defects in workmanship or materials during the first year, including grading to provide drainage away from the foundation, concrete, masonry, stucco and cement plaster, carpentry, finish carpentry, waterproofing, insulation, louvers and vents, exterior siding, roofing, doors and windows, finishes, flooring, carpeting, painting, wall covering, fireplaces, cabinets, fixtures and appliances.
Second Year; For a period of two years from the warranty date, the warranty covers against mechanical and electrical system defects and major structural defects. This includes the supply lines and fittings for gas and water as well as the waste and vent pipes and their fittings including septic tanks and drain lines of the plumbing system. It also includes all wiring, boxes and connections related to the electrical system and the ductwowrk, steam, water and refrigerant lines, registers, convectors, radiation elements and dampers of the heating and cooling systems.
Third through Tenth Year- The warranty covers major structural defects for ten years. Major structural defects include any actual damage to a load-bearing portion of the home include roof rafters and trusses, ceiling and floor joists, bearing partitions, supporting beams, columns, basement and foundation walls and footings.
The liability of a builder under a warranty is limited by law to the purchase price of the home in the first good faith sale or the fair market value of the home on its completion date if there is no good faith sale. (A "good faith sale" is the same as an "arms length" transaction. It means that there was no "inside deal" and the sales price reflects the actual market value at the time of the sale.)
Site-work, except in the immediate area of the foundation, is not covered by the limited ten year builders' warranty - homeowners must contact municipal government offices for assistance and information.
FILING A CLAIM
It is very important that a claim is filed before the end of the coverage period. If a claim is not filed on time, it will be denied. Almost all defects in workmanship or materials are covered for the first year. The plumbing, electrical and mechanical (heating and air conditioning) systems are covered for the first two years. Major structural defects are covered for ten years.
Claims must be filed in accordance with the requirements of your warranty plan administrator for filing a claim. The procedure is contained in the booklet given to each new homeowner at closing. If you do not have the booklet, contact your plan administrator [link to contact information] or the Bureau of Homeowner Protection.
While you must notify your builder in writing of any defect that you would like addressed, writing to or talking to your builder about a problem does not count as filing a claim. And the formal filing of a claim must take place during the coverage period.
- Your Warranty Plan
Click here for the listing of NJ-approved new home warranty plans.
- Construction Code FAQs for New Home Buyers
How is new home construction regulated in New Jersey?
New Jersey provides various protections for new homebuyers. The New Jersey Uniform Construction Code, a set of regulations adopted by the Department that works to protect the health, safety, and welfare of New Jersey’s citizens, is one of those protections.
All construction work performed in the State is regulated by the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), which contains rules relating to the administration and enforcement of the code as well as four basic technical subcodes: building, electrical, fire protection, and plumbing.
As each technical subcode of the UCC, the code adopts by reference a national model code, which, in turn, contains references to national performance technical standards that govern construction. The technical standards contain very detailed specifications for a particular aspect of construction. The national model codes incorporate by reference standards that are appropriate to their subject. For example, the adopted code for new home construction in New Jersey is the International Residential Code , which references technical standards that are developed and published by such organizations as the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Society of Testing and Materials, and the National Fire Protection Association and that apply to wood construction, heating and ventilation, and fire protection requirements, respectively.
In short, the UCC is a complete set of technical standards for construction with a uniform method of administration and enforcement.
Who enforces New Jersey’s construction code?
In New Jersey, State-licensed, municipally employed code enforcement professionals--construction officials, subcode officials, and inspectors--are responsible for the enforcement of the UCC. A construction official is a State-licensed code enforcement official who is responsible for administering the UCC within the jurisdiction of the enforcing agency. A subcode official is a State-licensed code enforcement official who implements the provisions of a specific technical subcode (building, fire protection, electrical, or plumbing) of the UCC and oversees the technical and administrative provisions of that subcode. Inspectors are State-licensed code enforcement officials who enforce the requirements of a specific technical subcode, but do not oversee the administrative provisions of that subcode.
What role do code enforcement professionals play in the construction of my home?
The primary responsibility of code enforcement professionals is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of New Jersey’s citizens. To accomplish this, construction officials and subcode officials review building plans and specifications to ensure they conform to the UCC and inspectors perform field inspections of construction projects to ensure that the construction is in accordance with the UCC.
During construction, the code official or inspector conducts regular inspections to ensure that the work performed complies with the UCC. The code requires construction work to stop so that certain inspections can be performed at particular points in construction, namely inspection of the bottom of footing trenches before placement of footings and inspection of the rough plumbing and electrical wiring before the framing inspection of framing system before they are covered with finishes. It is not practical and the UCC does not require that inspectors be at the construction site at all times. Rather, the UCC requires that inspectors carry out periodic inspections during the progress of work to ensure that the work inspected conforms to the UCC.
Once a construction project passes final inspections, the builder certifies that the project complies with the UCC and the construction official issues a Certificate of Occupancy. A Certificate of Occupancy verifies that the construction work has been completed in accordance with the UCC.
What role do the building plans and specifications filed with the enforcing agency play in the construction of my new home?
Under the Uniform Construction Code, building plans and specifications are required for the construction of new homes and are prepared by State licensed design professionals. Plans and specifications are required to show such detail and include such information as is necessary to assist the inspectors to determine compliance with the construction code and to facilitate inspections for code conformity. In other words, plans and specifications are used to determine whether the construction of your home meets or exceeds the requirements of the construction code. The plans on file in the building department do not determine what the builder must provide to you. Your contract is the only document, which establishes what the builder must provide to you. The plans on file are not a part of your contract unless the contract says so explicitly. Rather, plans and specifications are intended to be used as a tool for determining code compliance. Inspectors are not authorized by law to ensure that the home conforms to your contract; they are limited to ensuring that it conforms to code.
Do I have a right to a copy of the filed plans and specifications for my home?
Yes. Your local construction department maintains the building plans and specifications for your home. Construction officials should make the building plans and specifications available to any individual who has a legitimate need for the information contained in the documents. The owner, mortgagee, or contract purchaser of a property would have good reason for access, as would a contractor or agent acting with authorization from the owner. There will be a copying charge.
What happens if I discover a problem with the construction of my home?
The nature of construction is such that there can be no guarantee that a new home will be absolutely perfect. Fortunately, the New Home Warranty and Builders Registration Act, which is enforced through the New Home Warranty Program, protects new homebuyers from defects. Under the New Home Warranty Program, all builders of new homes must issue a warranty. The warranty ensures certain standards and quality of construction for various components of your new home. The New Home Warranty Program also requires new homebuilders in the State to be registered with the Department and provides assistance to both homebuilders and new homebuyers.
For defects that are covered under the warranty, homeowners should first file a claim through the warranty program rather than file a complaint with your local building department. The warranty program’s goal is to correct the defect. They will either require the builder to repair any covered defect or, should the builder default, pay to have the defect corrected. Additionally, there are defects covered by the warranty program during the first and second year that would not be considered code violations by the building department. For example, problems with carpeting would be covered by the warranty program during the first year of coverage but would not be considered a code violation. The building department’s role is to identify and have the code violation corrected but it cannot help you financially as the warranty program can. You should file a complaint with the building department for items that are either out of time for warranty coverage or for items not covered by the warranty.
If you believe that there is a problem with an element of construction in your new home, review your homeowner’s warranty to determine whether the item is covered by warranty. File a claim. If it is determined that a particular item is a warranted defect, the builder must correct the problem and if the builder fails to correct the problem, the defect will be corrected through the warranty plan.
- Understanding Builder Registration Requirements
Under New Jersey law, all new home builders are required to be registered with the Dept. of Community Affairs. This includes those who build single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, cooperatives, condominiums, factory-built and modular residences. The only exception is a person who constructs a new home for his or her own personal use.
If the registered builder is a partnership or corporation, the Department records the names of all of the partners or principals of the corporation, including any officers and anyone with at least a ten percent interest in the corporation.
A builder cannot take out a permit to build a new home without first being registered with the Department. And the builder's registration may be denied, suspended or revoked if the builder fails to provide new home warranty coverage and to participate in a warranty plan, fails to correct or settle warranty claims, commits fraud, makes misrepresentations in the application for registration or substantially violates the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code. If the registered builder is a partnership or corporation, then any action taken to deny, suspend or revoke the builder's registration will include any other companies involving the same individual(s). In this way, the Department prevents builders from forming new corporations as a means to avoid responsibility for their past actions.
Because the builder cannot continue to build in New Jersey without being registered, this is an effective tool to compel builders to correct warranted defects.
- Related Forms and Publications
Listing of NJ New Home Builders
NJ Home Builder Claim and Default Report
- Laws, Rules, Regulations
New Home Warranty and Builders' Registration
For further information on:
Builder Registration, call
Warranty Enrollments, call
State Warranty Plan
All other claims,
contact your warranty
For Uniform Construction
Code Assistance, call
For information on Construction Permits, call
your local Construction