CHAPTER 355

FORMERLY

HOUSE BILL NO. 550

AS AMENDED BY HOUSE AMENDMENT NO. 1

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 6, DELAWARE CODE, RELATING TO NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION AND THE COMPLETION OF UNFINISHED WORK.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. Amend Subtitle II. Title 6 of the Delaware Code, by inserting a new Chapter 36 to read:

"CHAPTER 36. NEW HOME BUYERS PROTECTION ACT.

§ 3601. Definitions.

As used in this subchapter:

a) 'New Residential Real Property' means any estate or interest in real property improved by a new dwelling not previously occupied and constructed for use as a residence.

(b) 'Seller' means any individual, partnership, corporation, or trustee transferring new residential property or a new dwelling.

(c) 'Buyer' means any individual, partnership, corporation, or trustee purchasing any estate or interest in a new residential real property or new dwelling.

(d) 'New Dwelling' means a new multi-family, single family, or townhouse dwelling not previously occupied and constructed for use as a residence.

(e) 'Vendor' means any person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other entity that contracts to sell new dwellings or new residential real property.

(f) 'Unfinished Work' means a condition in a new residential real property or new dwelling which fails to comply with the work agreed upon by the vendor and/or seller in the specifications, contract terms, and applicable building codes.

(g) 'Final Settlement' means the time at which the parties have signed and delivered all papers and consideration to convey title to the estate or interest in a new residential real property or new dwelling.

§ 3602. New home construction - unfinished work and the escrow of monies.

(a) if any unfinished work is discovered prior to or at the time of the previously agreed upon final settlement date on new residential real property or a new dwelling, the vendor and/or seller shall be required to set aside from the proceeds of the sale, a sum of money equal to the contractual cost required to complete any such unfinished work. If the contract does not set forth the cost, the escrowed amount shall be the fair market value of completing said unfinished work. The escrow agreement shall specify the unfinished work at issue.

(b) Said monies shall be held in escrow for no longer than thirty (30) days following the completion of the unfinished work. No buyer may refuse to release monks escrowed pursuant to this section for unfinished work not specified pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

(c) If the unfinished work specified at the final settlement has not been remedied upon the expiration of ninety (90) days from the date of final settlement or a date agreed upon by the parties and set forth in the escrow agreement, the monies held in escrow pursuant to this section shall be released to the buyer.

(d) Notwithstanding the above, this section shall apply only when the estimated cost to complete said unfinished work equals one percent (1%) or more of the contract price or when the aggregate estimated costs of completing all unfinished work equals one percent (1%) or more of the contract price.

(e) This section shall not apply when a buyer unilaterally requests that settlement take place on a date prior to the previously agreed upon final settlement date.

(f) To the extent the seller/vendor and the buyer agree that the buyer may withhold, at the final settlement, monies otherwise subject to escrow under this section, such an arrangement shall be deemed in compliance with this section.

§3603. Remedies and Penalties

(a) In any successful action brought by a buyer for failure to acknowledge unfinished work subject to the escrow provisions of § 3602 or failure to escrow the contractual cost or the fair market value required to complete the unfinished work subject to the escrow provisions of § 3602, the court may order the seller/vendor to pay the amount that should have been escrowed and the costs of litigation. To the extent a seller/vendor proves that a buyer's request to escrow under § 3602 was not valid, the buyer may be liable for the seller/vendor's costs of litigation.

(b) Failure to comply with a buyer's valid request to escrow under § 3602 of this chapter shall constitute an unlawful practice in violation of § 2513 of this title and willful violations of § 3602 shall be punishable in accordance with § 2513(c) and/or § 2581 of this title. The Attorney General shall have the same authority to enforce, remedy and carry out the provisions of this chapter as is provided by § 2517 of title 29, and §§ 2511-2527 and §§ 2531-2536 of Title 6.

(c) The remedies and penalties provided for in this section are not exclusive and shall be in addition to any other procedures, rights or remedies which exist with respect to any other provisions of law including but not limited to State and/or Federal criminal prosecutions and/or common law statutory actions brought by private parties."

Section 2. This Act shall be effective sixty days after enactment into law.

Approved June 7, 1996