Arbitration agreements allow a third party to settle disputes between buyers and builders, saving time and money. But WFTS' consumer reporter Adam Walser talked to some Tampa Bay-area homeowners who say they give builders a big advantage.

Jamie and Traci Feist's home is made out of structural insulated panel systems that they say are soaking up water and causing the roof on their new home to sag. The couple signed an arbitration agreement, which is supposed to help settle issues quickly, without having to go to court.

But the Feists believe multiple parties are responsible for their home’s problems, and they say it’s been difficult to get everyone to respond in a timely manner.

“These arbitration agreements just protect them,” said Jamie Feist. “And families like mine are suffering and losing everything.”

Tampa attorney Jesse Hoyer, who does not represent either party, says many new home buyers don’t understand the agreements they are signing. She said arbitration has become commonplace in the building industry and can sometimes create an uneven playing field for consumers. “Corporations can wait them out, they can bleed them financially. They can draw everything out over time,” said Hoyer.

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