If a homeowner decides to open a lawsuit to recover damages due to a construction defect, he or she may sue any number of parties that were involved in the building of the home. However, the homeowner will likely sue the general contractors, developers, or builders. Who he or she chooses to sue is dependent on the cause of the damage. A plaintiff may be able to receive damages for the home’s loss in value, temporary housing, repairs, and losses due to the property not being used.
A condition in a home that brings down its value is known as a construction defect. Some construction defects, like water damage, are obvious to anyone looking at the home. A layperson could see water damage and know exactly what it is. However, there are a great many less obvious ways a person’s home could be damaged by a construction defect. Some might not even be apparent for years after the home was built.
Defects that can easily be seen and acknowledged by a layperson are known as “patent” defects, while hidden ones that only become apparent much later are “latent.” This article explores the causes of construction defects, their damage to a home, and how those damages could be recovered in a court of law.
Many factors could contribute to a construction defect, from poor workmanship to construction accidents. A combination of issues could create a construction defect, including negligent construction, site planning and selection errors, improper preparation and soil analysis, poor building materials, and civil and structural engineering mistakes.
The types of defects that most often go to litigation include:
- Structural failure
- Dry rot
- Electrical and heating
- Foundation, wall, floor, and roof cracks
- Faulty drainage
- Electrical systems
- Water issues
- Soil and landscaping
There could be many parties responsible for a construction defect. Generally, however, the blame will fall on general contractors, developers, and builders. Other parties, like architects and designers, may become involved in the litigation as defendants. If any of these parties are found legally responsible, their insurers will likely pay the damages.
Plaintiffs will have trouble doing all the work involved in a lawsuit without an attorney. People looking to recover repair costs incurred due to a construction defect usually begin by seeking an attorney. It will be up to the plaintiff and his or her legal counsel to decide who he or she should target in a lawsuit. The attorney will consider whether the defect was the result of the home’s original building or a later addition.
The answer to the question, “how are construction defects proven in court?”, is dependent upon the differences between a “patent” defect and a “latent” defect. Patent defects are obvious and can be proven with eyewitness testimony. If a house is covered with mold, the average person could attest to what that looks and feels like. Defects that are latent, however, require expert testimony to go into the details of how construction led to the problem.
As is typical with legal matters, the circumstances and facts of the case will determine what damages can be recovered. Typically, though, repair costs to the home and the house’s decline in value can be recovered. Other damages could include the costs associated with a temporary home, attorney fees, court costs, and the losses from keeping the property unused. Additionally, personal injuries that came as a result of the defect may be recovered.
There are some time limits for filing a lawsuit for repairs, but they vary by state. In many states, legislation requires that the homeowner or homeowners association give notice to the contractor or developer. This gives them the chance to fix the damage. If the defect is not repaired, a lawsuit can be filed.
The time limit to file a lawsuit is known as a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations depends on what kind of defect was found, latent or patent. If a defect is found, the shortest statute of limitations is three years from its discovery date.