Construction Defect Basics
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
A house is generally a homeowners' single most valuable financial investment and one of the most important emotional investments. To them it is more than bricks and mortar; it is the place where they live, rest, and raise their families. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting homeowners realize their new homes suffer from some type of construction defect that will cost thousands of dollars to repair, depreciate the value of their home, or force them to leave their home.
Defects in construction cover a broad spectrum from minor problems like popped nails and peeling paint to situations when a house must be bulldozed. Some cases involve leaky windows that have led to toxic-mold contamination. Other problems include faulty design, code violations, cracked foundations, substandard workmanship, and unsafe structures.
The number of construction-related cases surged during the housing bubble that ended in 2008, since houses were being constructed in record numbers to meet the high demand. Many general contractors are inexperienced and others mass produce thousands of houses. The home construction industry is intensely competitive. Many builders respond to the competition with low bids for contracts, then cut corners, and frequently employ unskilled or overworked subcontractors and poorly supervise subcontracted work. At a time when government regulation is more important than ever, government inspection departments do not have the funding to adequately inspect homes and often approve below-par construction. The combination of these factors results in homes that are built with serious defects.
Limits on Potential Claims
Most states impose time limits on construction defect claims by Statutes of repose and Statutes of limitations. Statutes of repose specify the time period within which a cause of action can arise at all. Under these statutes, the limitation period may expire before the plaintiff's cause of action has arisen. Conversely, statutes of limitation foreclose suits after a fixed period of time following occurrence or discovery of an injury. These statues are complex and vary from state to state. It is critical that you seek the advice of an experienced attorney if you believe the damages to your home are the result of a construction defect before you lose your right to seek a remedy from the responsible parties.
In most states the time limits begin to run when the defect is discovered, or should have been discovered by a reasonable person. If the defect is patent, or apparent based on reasonable inspection, the action against a defendant must begin within the time period specified by state law. If the defect is latent, or not readily apparent by reasonable inspection, any action to recover damages generally must be within ten years after improvements are substantially completed.
Construction defect litigation is complex. It may involve several defendants, include insurance companies and involve many legal theories. Most states impose complex time limits on when a claim may be brought. If you believe your home suffers from a defect caused by the builder, or another party, protect your rights. Talk to an attorney with experience in this complex area of law.
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