Lew Migliore, the Industry's Troubleshooter and President of LGM & Associates Technical Flooring Services. LGM specializes in the practice of consulting on and trouble shooting all flooring related complaints, problems, and performance issues having experts in every category as well as related educational services.
What is reasonable?
Very often when we receive inquiries from flooring dealers about claims the length of time involved in the claim arises. One of the first questions I ask is "When was the flooring installed and how long after it was installed did they notice the concern condition?"
Typically flooring is warranted by the manufacturer against manufacturing defects for a period of one year. This is not to say a legitimate defect can't occur later than that but most defective material will reveal the defect within a years' time. A year is considered a reasonable length of time to file a complaint without a lot of hassle from the manufacturer. Reasonable, as it relates to time and legality for flooring materials, means being within reasonable or average limits. And that means the length of time most claims for flooring defects are filed.
Visible defects should certainly be seen by the manufacturer before the product ships. These would be obvious or even subtle blemishes in the material; a high or low line or a stop mark in carpet, a fly in the material or a pattern out of register in vinyl, chips, cracks or gouges in wood, laminate or tile or any compromise in the physical structure of the product. If you inspect the product before installation, which you should, blemishes would be noticeable and the manufacturer notified immediately; that's a reasonable amount of time.
Latent defects, those that manifest themselves after the material is installed such as fading or delamination of carpet, color change or curling in vinyl, or any compromise in the structural integrity of any flooring material that occurs after installation or use deemed to be a manufacturing defect, should appear within a year's time or less. That's reasonable.
But what if a complaint is filed several years later, how do we attribute reasonableness to that?
For this we have to look at the problem being complained about as something that could be expected from the particular category of flooring material that could take longer to appear. Fading for example in a carpet that is supposed to be colorfast, the surface wearing off of a wood product could be another but then we have to look at the circumstances and in these cases certified laboratory testing conducted to determine if the product is the problem or the use or maintenance.
Once you get beyond a certain point of reasonable time the element of doubt enters the equation. Something may have been done to the product to cause it to react the way it has, that's when you need an experts help.
Manufacturers are not going to be receptive to a complaint filed on a flooring product two or three years old without raising an eyebrow as to the cause. They can also go back into their claims tracking system to look at the history of a product or a particular run to check for complaints.
So what happens if the claim is denied and you still have a product that's falling apart and the cause is determined to be a legitimate manufacturing defect?
Again we turn to a reasonable answer. The product was used for a period of time so value was provided. It did fail but not in the reasonably accepted time frame for manufacturing defects. The manufacturer may offer a credit, adjustment or allowance on replacement goods. This would be considered reasonable as an industry standard practice and even in the eyes of the law.
These complaints would be handled on a case by case basis and it could be argued that the defect, even though it took years to occur, did in fact result from the manufacturer not doing something that would be typical and normal to the manufacture of the product. What is reasonable at this point may have to be negotiated or a compromise reached.
Once a reasonable amount of time has passed claims become much more difficult to settle.
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