Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Building Without Warranty May be Penny Wise, Pounds Foolish - Engr. Osaz’ ENOBAKHARE

If a completed building or an infrastructure is considered a product which it really is, it becomes imperative for whoever is hiring a contractor to handle a building project for example to ask for some form of guaranty on the life span of the finished work.  The same goes for those who are buying properties. You don’t have to be a professional client to understand that once money exchanges hands, any complaint afterwards only end up in deaf ears so it is better to request for a warranty before releasing funds either to pay for an existing property (especially a new building) or for a contractor to handle your project. Once issued in favour of the project and accepted, a warranty becomes legally binding. 

Recently, beyond requesting for advance bank guarantees or insurance bonds which ensure security of project funds and reduces the tendencies for diversion of same, there is been an increasing consciousness from project owners to request a form of performance bond or guarantee from their contractors as the idea of banking only on the successes of previous projects executed is fast becoming unreliable. 

This is obviously the right way to go as court cases bordering on building collapse have been observed to put the burden of such ugly incidences on both the owner and the contractor. But with a warranty from your contractor issued at the start of a project, such burden of defense is largely transferred to the contractor especially if the incidence occurs within the warranty period.

Most dishonest contractors are often skeptical about issuing warranties because they know the implications of doing so, hence it is strongly advised that you either avoid employing their services or you insist on the issuance of a warranty that at least covers the aspect of structural failure especially for multi-storey buildings. 

Unlike the warranties issued on electronic products or similar household items which are often one-off i.e. covering only the aspect of durability say for one year, two years etc; warranties on buildings cover a range of areas, especially structural stability, efficiency of services (i.e. electrical/Mechanical installations) as well as durability of finishes. A typical schedule of warranty for a building may stipulate a defect liability of 40 - 50 years for structural stability, 7 - 10 years for premium finishes, 2 - 5 years for regular finishes, 10 - 15 years for premium fittings and fixtures, 5 – 7 years for regular fittings and fixtures, 15 – 25 years for resistance to ground water ingress and so on. Every warranty comes with certain terms and conditions which includes that the contractor would not be responsible for damages caused by force majeur or occasioned by mis-use on the part of occupants of the building or users of the facility as well as for any work not under their direct supervision.  

Sometimes huge project funds are committed into a building development or the development of an infrastructure but a problem as little as persistent ground water seepage which should have been taken care of at the sub-structure work stage could make a mess of the entire structure and investment; so does the use of sub-standard materials in the quest to accumulate selfish gains. However with a warranty arrangement in place, a contractor is obliged to make substantial refunds to the project owner in such cases, which could bring a huge form of relief to the owner at that material time. The use of warrantees is fast eroding the application of the requisite 6-10% retention money for a defect liability period of 6 months which is the common practice because it has been widely observed that building defects may not become evident until well above a year from practical completion and when they begin to manifest it, only the owner is left to bear the burden.

It is high time project owners become pounds-wise by patronizing contractors who are willing to issue post-construction warranties even before the project kick start so they are confident that after completion there is still some form of commitment.

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