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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: August 7, 2017 04:02 PM
From: Representative Duane D. Milne
To: All House members
Subject: Consumer Protection: extending statute of repose standards to subsequent homeowners
I am proposing legislation to establish that for new residential construction the legal rights and remedies available to the first owner under the statute of repose standards shall survive ownership transfer of a property that is so transacted within the first 12 years of the residence being deemed habitable for occupancy.

Issue Context

A very serious problem experienced by homeowners can be a failed exterior (whether stucco, wood, etc.) of the home, which compromises protection of the residence from the elements and ensuing damage.

A failed exterior can result in major moisture intrusion that leads to rot and degradation of the house. Safety is of paramount concern, both in terms of the physical integrity of part or all of the home, as well as health-related concerns because of mold and other contaminants. Part or all of residences can become uninhabitable.

Statute of Repose

Current law in Pennsylvania generally allows for a 12 year statute of repose (a statute of limitations for product liability) following construction and certified occupancy of new residences.

The timeline permits the first homeowner this period to file claims of material construction defects and breaches of the implied warranty of habitability. However, a significant gap in consumer protection can occur when the original owner transfers (sells) ownership to what becomes a subsequent owner. Under current interpretations of Pennsylvania law, this transaction voids the implied warranty of habitability, and restricts the legal standing of subsequent owners to file claims of material construction defects that (yet) appear within the first 12 years of the home’s construction and certified habitability.

Homeowner Financial Impact

In these circumstances, subsequent homeowners can end up paying out-of-pocket for repairs and even complete reconstruction at dollar price tags that routinely run into tens of thousands and even hit the hundred thousand mark. Needless to say, this level outlay devastates a family’s finances, and truly proves a life-altering event, because of impact on a family’s plans and opportunities moving forward, whether for children’s education, taking care of aging parents or even providing for their own retirement. This seems fundamentally unfair when manifestation of the same material defects and asserted rights of remedy would be something to which an original homeowner would be entitled.

Legislative Proposal

My legislation seeks to establish that the implied warranty of habitability, and associated legal rights, shall be deemed to apply for the duration of the standard statute of repose with respect to new residential construction, regardless of changes of ownership of the property.

Please join me in this measure to protect a pillar of the American Dream, home ownership, and to assert a fundamental tenant of fairness for consumers.

Thank you, Rep. D Milne