When Does Warranty Begin?
A closer look at one of the most debated topics at the end of a project
- By Charlie Howell
- Sep 01, 2014
Most of us have been at the end of a project when the owner/
client asks the popular question: “When does the one-year
warranty begin?” The answer becomes one of the most debated
topics, only second to the end-of-project, door-locking
So, when does warranty begin?
In more than 90 percent of the specifications that I have either written
or read, the warranty is a 12-month period from the end of the project. The
conversation of the duration of 12 months is seldom in question. It is the
conversation of what triggers the beginning of a warranty that really sparks
As a consultant, it is my fiduciary duty in representing my client—typically
the end user—to make sure that the start date of the warranty is at the
appropriate time: at the end of construction when the security
integrator has completed the install. After all, why
should my client’s 12-month period, when parts and labor
are provided free of charge, start any earlier than at
the end of the construction period?
As integrators have continually asked me, though,
“Why should we start a warranty at a time after our
12-month manufacturers’ warranty has already begun?”
I don’t disagree.
The most common terminology used to define the
trigger of the beginning of a warranty period is “substantial
completion,” the particular time toward
the end of a project when the installation period
is complete and only smaller items typically
found on a punch list are left to install.
In some cases, there is no issue with this: a
substantial completion form is completed
in a reasonable amount of time and the
12-month warranty begins.
However, in my experience, substantial
completion ends up being possibly
six to 12 months later than the time
when the system(s) actually began being
used and incurring wear and tear.
The end result in these circumstances
is that the integrator loses the manufacturer’s
warranty period and becomes
responsible for the entire cost
of any defective equipment. (There
are a few examples where the manufacturer chipped in and restarted the warranty
period for the integrator, but those are rare and not the norm.)
I offer that there is another acceptable but seldom used term to trigger the
beginning of the warranty period, which is “beneficial use,” the period of time
at which the system is able to be used by the client. This is typically before
substantial completion but indicates that the system is fully functional and
incurring wear and tear. I have suggested that this term be acceptable to my
clients and have suggested to integrators that they set the stage at the onset of
a project by requesting that the beginning of the warranty period start at the
beginning of beneficial use.
So, does a warranty begin at substantial completion, beneficial use or with
the close out documentation? The answer will vary by project and client. As
integrators, if you don’t suggest at the beginning of a project your preference
and produce a document that can be signed by both parties, a warranty will
be no earlier than substantial completion, regardless of when the system(s)
start getting used.
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Security Today.