When Ajay Pandey moved into his new home in Winnipeg, it was missing a set of stairs to the garage, it had a kitchen counter-top that didn't match the original designs, and it had a lower quality carpet than he had ordered.
Now, after a three-year court battle, he has convinced a judge to order the builder to compensate him for those and other problems.
"I think the seller has to take more responsibility. The industry has to take more responsibility to treat customers more fairly," Pandey said in an interview with the CBC News' I-Team.
Pandey bought a family home from Kensington Homes in south St. Vital for $353,000 and took possession in May 2010.
He said he noticed defects even before moving in and was unsuccessful in getting the builder to address the issues after possession.
With a final judgment last month, a court awarded Pandey about $23,000, including $11,500 for construction deficiencies plus $11,371 in court costs.
Represented himself in court
Pandey represented himself in court, saying it would have cost him too much to hire a lawyer.
"When you buy a house, you put all your savings, all money in buying the house. You are really not financially strong enough to fight with anyone," he said.
The judge ruled there were eight deficiencies for which Kensington must compensate Pandey, ranging from the kitchen countertop to a vanity sink, some exterior woodworking, the quality of the carpeting, and the stairs leading from the house into the garage — stairs that had not been installed.
There were other items claimed by Pandey that the judge did not uphold, such as the routing of heating ducts.
Pandey said he believes he could have succeeded in proving that claim if he had hired a lawyer.
Kensington Homes disagreed, noting that the judge sided with the company on that item.
Homeowner was 'unwilling to co-operate', says company
In a written statement to CBC News, Kensington Homes vice-president Tony Balaz said, "The core of the legal matter is related to a request by Mr. Pandey for Kensington to relocate some duct work and do additional interior construction after the house was completed.
Contact the I-Team
If you have a tip for the CBC News I-Team, please call our confidential tip line at (204) 788-3744 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
"As Kensington had built the home to Mr. Pandey's specifications and in accordance with the plan which had been approved and signed off by him in writing, we declined to do the renovations," Balaz added.
Balaz said Pandey "was unwilling to co-operate with our repeated efforts to address his concerns."
Kensington would have fixed some issues but "was unable to do so as we were not granted access by the homeowner," Balaz said.
However, Pandey said Kensington did not ask for access to the home to address his complaints until after he launched the lawsuit in December 2010.
He said at that point, Kensington wrote him requesting access to build the missing stairs, which Pandey had already installed by then.
Pandey said he refused access because the lawsuit had been filed.
Carpet did not meet specifications
During the trial, Pandey brought evidence establishing the carpet was supposed to be of "medium quality" with a "pile weight of approximately 30 ounces per square yard."
He had sent samples of his carpet to a testing company in Toronto. A witness from the company told court the pile weight of Pandey's carpet was 23 to 24 ounces per square yard.
On that item, the judge awarded Pandey $4,500 for the cost of replacing his carpet.
The judge also accepted Pandey's claims of defects to exterior woodwork on the house, including a door frame that was damaged, low-grade lumber on part of a hand rail, rusting nails, and untreated wood in one location that would be susceptible to rotting, the decision stated.
The judge concluded, "Kensington did not offer much by way of explanation in relation to the quality of exterior woodwork in the areas mentioned except to attempt to justify it by saying that the design of the house called for a rustic appearance."
"I reject that argument," the judge continued. "It is clear from the photo exhibits that the workmanship and materials were of poor quality."
The judge awarded Pandey $2,000 for fixing the exterior woodwork issues.
As well, Pandey was awarded $500 for replacing a pedestal sink that ought to have been a vanity sink.
Deficiencies weren't deliberate, judge said
Overall, the judge said Pandey failed to establish that his dealings with Kensington were substantially different than what is normally expected in having a home constructed.
"The deficiencies for which I have found Kensington to be liable were neither deliberate nor made in bad faith," the judge wrote.
"It is apparent that as a result of a rapid deterioration between the relationship between Pandey and Kensington's representatives, very little if any effort was put into having at least some of the deficiencies attended to by Kensington," said the judge.
He added it was unfortunate there was not greater effort to resolve the issues in a less adversarial fashion, and that "Pandey must bear some of the responsibility for this."
Pandey said his experience leaves him feeling he wasn't treated fairly by Kensington.
"I believe when you go to the Wal-Mart and you complain about the $5 or $10 stuff, I think you are treated much better in Wal-Mart rather than the way a builder treats you," he said.
City inspection uncovers more problems
The lawsuit was not the end of the ordeal for Pandey.
He said he learned earlier this year that there was no final building inspection done on the house.
Pandey said when he arranged for that final inspection, the city found a list of building code violations not previously uncovered.
Items on the list include errors in the electrical plugs in the kitchen and bathroom, no attic access above the garage, and problems with the garage door.
Kensington said it has received the list of deficiencies and will ensure they are fixed.