There’s nothing quite like walking into a new home and dreaming of all the ways you can use its space. When the walls are clear and there’s nothing staunching the flow of sunlight, the home isn’t empty—it’s full of promise. But many new Florida homeowners have seen those promises betrayed.

As the Herald-Tribune recently reported, construction defects gave Pulte homeowners all kinds of problems. The substandard application of stucco led to cracks, delamination, wood rot, mold and even collapsing walls. The state stood up for the homeowners’ concerns in a lawsuit that was recently settled, and they’re now able to file for reimbursement. But what about the rest of us?

What can you do?

While the recent boom in construction activity has been mostly good, it has also led to an increased number of construction defect claims. According to a January article in Daily Business Review, the demand for cheap labor has resulted in lower quality standards and a dramatic rise in reported defects. This means if you’re looking at a new home, you have more reason than ever to learn how to respond to a potential defect:

  • Send written notice of the problem to your builder. Florida law says you need to give the builder or contractor written notice at least 60 days before you try filing a lawsuit. In many cases, the builder will correct the problem under warranty. In other cases, the builder may inspect your property and claim there’s no problem or offer a cash settlement.
  • Measure the builder’s response. If the builder claims there is no problem or offers a settlement instead of repairing the issue, you don’t need to accept the result. You may wish to get a second opinion from a home inspector or get a quote for the repairs from a third-party contractor. You want to arm yourself with information.
  • Pursue legal action. If your builder’s response doesn’t meet your needs, you can meet with an attorney to review your legal options, including the filing of a lawsuit. It’s important that you pay attention to the deadlines for filing. In most cases, you have up to four years from the time you discover a defect in your new home to file your suit.

Dont give up on your dreams

There are plenty of reasons you may find construction defects in your new home. Contractors may cause some of them. Others owe to factors outside the builder’s control. But none of them need to end your dreams for your home. Florida says you have a reasonable right to enjoy your home, and knowing your rights is the first step to protecting them.