In 2019, two rural homeowners in West Virginia died of carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to stay warm. This article includes details of both cases and discusses what may be done to prevent other homes in similar situations from passing this tragedy forward.
In both cases, the homebuyers were in their apartments less than thirty minutes from the home they were selling. The homes were initially purchased as second homes, and these homes were also investment properties. In both cases, it is likely that an uninsured, inexperienced, or uninsured contractor was responsible for most, if not all, of the defects in the structure. In the case of the first home, the roof and HVAC were not properly covered by homeowners insurance, and in the case of the second home, the builder was also un-insured, and the work was not performed correctly.
The first home was purchased in 1998, and the second home was purchased in 2006. It is not unusual for homes to be purchased and then lived in for several years. In both cases, it is clear that the builder’s failure to perform routine maintenance and the lack of attention to quality construction completed by un-insured, inexperienced, or uninsured contractors was certainly not the result of a conscious decision by the builder to deceive buyers or a lack of negligence on his part.
Homeowner’s insurance is based on the one who seeks coverage for what the insured will misconception the probability of loss is if crops are lost and the fuel is cut off. Historically, the homeowner’s insurance market has seen very little movement because most homes that were purchased have seen an exceptionally good and rapid rate of appreciation. Until a home is sold many years later, insurance company companies are charging the same premiums, and there is very little incentive for a homeowner to change companies for a cheaper, more affordable policy covered by that company.
Homeowner’s insurance companies are acting very aggressively on this problem by beginning to deny coverage to homes that the insured have the chance of staying warm. The builders are being charged for the arriving problems, an even greater likelihood of problems of this nature is not being taken into account.
It is expected in this environment to pay sufficient damages to turn a losing situation into a potential loss. Under the most common rules of thumb, large modular and kit home construction is very vulnerable to defects and possible accidents. The biggest problems are occurring when homes are being assembled on a construction site that lacks adequate supervision. The workers are inexperienced and many dangers can occur from faulty wiring, lack of experience, and faulty materials. Most of the problems in the later homes were performed by inexperienced contractors: using incorrect materials and poor construction techniques. These should have been brought to the attention of the owner from the get-go. At the very latest, the local building inspector is called upon to check all work by the contractor.
How do we deal with the possibilities of these homes being poorly built?
First, homeowners should be alert to the possible process of a builder skipping necessary inspections. Without having to pay for inspections, the builder has little reason to hire a qualified inspector. If a builder can pay a couple of hundred dollars for a home inspection that costs the owner a couple of thousand dollars, and the inspector finds a problem that the builder is responsible for, the builder will not hire a qualified inspector. Homeowners should be sure that they have a written and signed release from the builder stating that they will not be responsible for making any repairs.
Second, homeowners should have reasonable expectations for the builder from the time they sign a contract with the builder to the delivery of the home. A home inspection company makes this possible. The company will inspect the home and the company will check out the inspector. In addition to a general home inspection, specific inspections may be necessary, such as roof, Termite, forwarded wreckage, foundation, and so forth.
Homeowners should have contracts drawn up by their attorney that clearly states the responsibility of the builder to repair any problems found during the home inspection, as well as the responsibility of the homeowner for receiving third-party reimbursement. This will keep neighborhood gossip and finger-pointing to a minimum and will keep the ultimate responsibility for repairs out of the hands of the homeowner.
Perhaps the best tool homeowners can have to ensure that an unfortunate circumstance is not repeated is a thorough and periodic home inspection. Home inspectors are still only human and are bound to make mistakes. Home inspectors are protected by the state’s Build It reviews, which hold builders accountable for faults found during construction. It would be wise to include such a clause in contracts and purchase contracts when purchasing an older home.