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Construction Defects

Your home is most often the most expensive purchase you'll make in your lifetime. As a homebuyer, protecting your real property like a long-term investment makes sense. But before completing a real estate transaction with a real estate agent, you’ll want to do a thorough inspection. Make sure there aren't any serious defects, especially in new construction real estate. Construction defects often cost thousands of dollars to fix. They can depreciate one's home value or even force homeowners to leave.

You’ll need to be able to spot dangerous defects or toxic mold early in order to make the necessary fixes and prevent injuries. So, what do you do when there's a legal issue with your new home? This article helps you understand different real estate law problems that can give rise to construction defect litigation involving houses and condos.

Understanding Types of Defects

The term "construction defect" refers to any sort of property damage in your home that falls into these four basic categories under state laws:

  • Design defects: Errors or omissions by the architect or design team
  • Material defects: Inferior construction materials that deteriorate quickly
  • Construction defects: Poor workmanship arising from failure to meet industry standards or building codes
  • Subsurface defects: Soil problems that result in a lack of a solid foundation

A disclaimer to keep in mind is that construction defect cases can cover both obvious and less obvious problems. Patent defects can be discovered by a reasonable inspection. Latent defects are more difficult as they can’t be readily observed during occupancy. For instance, consider a foundation problem that doesn't become apparent until the foundation starts to crack years down the road. Property owners should have a basic understanding of construction defect laws to help protect against these legal issues.

Examples of Construction Defects

There are many different types of construction defects. If you believe that there may be a construction defect in your home, it's a good idea to hire an independent home inspector to assess the extent of the damage at the first sign of a defect.

All kinds of defects may be present in a home. There are minor problems that can easily be fixed to major situations that render a home uninhabitable. Defects can originate in the design, planning, inspection, or construction phase.

Common defects include:

  • Poorly designed roofs, leading to leaks or inadequate structural support
  • Cracks in the concrete foundation
  • Defective building materials
  • Improper insulation
  • Expansive soil, resulting in settling and cracked foundations
  • Water intrusion and trapped moisture (often leading to mold growth)
  • Poorly installed electrical wires
  • Minor cosmetic issues like peeling paint

Toxic Mold

Poor craftsmanship and inadequate ventilation have serious consequences. They could result in the build-up of excess moisture, creating the perfect environment for various types of mold. Some mold—including what’s commonly called "black mold"—is very toxic. It can render a home inhabitable or unlivable. Since the actions (or omissions) of homeowners also can result in mold growth, a homeowner must be able to prove that toxic mold was caused by:

  • Poor design
  • Defective materials
  • Substandard workmanship

You can also learn more about mold warning signs and damage on Findlaw.

Determining Who Is Responsible

Several factors specific to each case determine liability for construction defects. For example, a defect resulting from poor workmanship may constitute negligence on the part of the construction firm. Claims also may arise from:

Different parties may share blame or liability for construction defects. Home builders and their subcontractors may owe you compensation for repairs. But you need to understand your rights and options, especially if you signed a real estate contract with a home builder. It's often a good idea to get expert legal services to help you determine which parties are at fault.

Get Legal Help With Construction Defects

In most states, homeowners have a limited time to file a claim for construction defects. Once the statute of limitations has expired, homeowners may be stuck with the defect. But some states may allow suits as long as they are filed within the time limit after the date of discovery. For example, you may not know the builder used a defective building material until you renovate your home and discover the defect.

If you have discovered a defect in your home and are considering legal action, a great first step is to speak with a professional. Consider a client relationship with a local construction real estate attorney. They can give you legal advice to help you learn more about your options and make an informed decision. They can also help you if you need to pursue real estate litigation in court.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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