Buying a home is often the single most important financial investment a person will make, and it can be devastating when homeowners find out upon moving in that their new home suffers from a construction defect that will cost them thousands to repair, lower the value of their home, or force them to move.
Construction defects cover a broad array of problems, from minor issues of popped nails and leaky faucets to critical structural flaws. Whatever type of construction defect you are facing, our real estate attorneys at Spital & Associates can help.
The Surge in Construction Defects
In recent years, the number of construction defect cases in the state of California has soared as a result of increased construction to meet a rising demand for housing.
A combination of factors is causing some homes to be built with serious defects:
- Many contractors are inexperienced, while others mass produce thousands of homes.
- The home construction industry is extremely competitive. Builders respond to this with ultra low bids that require them to cut corners and and employ unskilled or overworked subcontractors.
- Government inspection department don’t have the funding to properly inspect homes and often approve sub-par construction that barely meets the minimun standards.
Types of Construction Defects
Courts typically categorize construction defects into one of four categories:
- DESIGN DEFICIENCIES: Design professionals, such as architects and engineers, don’t always work within the specified code, which can result in defects. For example, roof defects can result in water penetration, intrusion, poor drainage or inadequate structural support.
- MATERIAL DEFICIENCIES: The use of inferior building materials can cause significant problems, such as windows that leak or fail to perform and function adequately, even when installed correctly. Common problems with poor quality building materials is flashing, building paper, waterproofing membranes, shingles, and drywall that deteriorate when use in damp areas such as bathrooms.
- CONSTRUCTION DEFICIENCES: Poor quality workmanship can result in a long list of defects. Some of the most costly defects include structural issues, such as cracks in foundations, dry rotting of wood, and electrical problems.
- SUBSURFACE DEFICIENCIES: Expansive soil conditions are typical in California, because any houses are built on compacted earth, hills or other areas that make it difficult to provide a stable foundation. Lack of a solid foundation can lead to cracked foundations or floor slabs, among other things.
The Typical Construction Defect Case
Construction defect cases rely on the contract between the homeowner and developer and the contract between the contractor and subcontractors involved in the building process–including suppliers, architects and engineers. The aim is to get remedy for the situation by the party who is responsible for the defect.
The complaint usually accuses the defendant of:
- NEGLIGENCE: This law requires the developer, general contractor, and subcontractor to exercise the appropriate level care, skill, and knowledge of building professionals. Developers and general contractors are responsible for any negligence by their subcontractors.
- BREACH OF CONTRACT: Homeowners may sue the builder or developer for breach of any obligations specified in the purchase and sale documents of the escrow instructions. This typically goes beyond failure fo the builder to follow the stated plans and specifications.
- BREACH OF WARRANTY: This is similar to breach of contract in that it refers to the specifications of purchase documents. These often set forth warranties concerning the condition of the property. Principles of contrat apply when there is an issue as to breach of an express warranty. In California, courts have begun holding builders to an “implied” warranty, meaning that the structure was built for sale to the public to be used for a specific purpose. Thus, privacy of contract is not always required.
- STRICT LIABILITY CLAIMS: The implied warranty of habitability forces strict liability upon the builder. In such a case, the homeowner does not have to prove negligence in the construction process. They only have to prove that the builder was involved in the production, that a defect exists in the house, that the defect caused damages, and the that the defect was caused by the builder.
- FRAUD AND NEGLIGENT MISREPRESENTATION: Fraud may be claimed if a builder knowingly misstated the quality of construction. It must be proved that the builder had no intent to follow the specified design plans.
Limits on Potential Claims
The state of California uses to statutes of limitations to place time limits on the filing of construction defect claims. A statute of limitation may bar a law suit after a fixed time period following an injury. In California, the time limits begin once a defect is discovered or once it should have been discovered by a reasonable person:
- PATENT DEFECTS: If a defect is patent (obvious), any action to recover damagers must begin within the time period specified in the statute of limitations.
- LATENT DEFECTS: If a defect is latent (concealed), it is not easily apparent based on inspection, and an action against a builder must begin within ten (10) years after improvements are made.
These statues are complex and it is important that you seek the advice of an experienced lawyer if you believe the a construction defect has caused damages to your home before you lose your right to seek a remedy from the responsible parties.
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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.