A construction defect is a condition that lowers the value of a home, condominium, or similar property. This defect can be in workmanship or design, or be connected to land movement. There are two principal defect categories that allow homeowners or homeowners’ associations to recover damages:
Defects in materials, workmanship, and design: This category includes stucco and siding deficiencies; water entry via sliding glass doors, roofs, and windows; faulty electrical wiring; insufficient insulation; defective mechanical and plumbing; termite infestation; and more.
Land movement: Examples include underground water sources, inadequate drainage, expansive soils, landslides, earth movement, improper compaction, and similar conditions.
Both categories of defect can be catastrophic and result in personal injury as well as substantial property damage.
Every builder’s warranty differs in terms of what is and isn’t covered, length of the coverage period, and what the builder will do to correct construction issues. Most warranties will not address the majority of typical construction defects, and they will often require you to arbitrate and refrain from suing in court. Be sure to read the fine print, because the warranty may also state that you could pay the developer’s costs if you lose your case. Whatever you do, do not blindly assume that the developer will correct any defects to your satisfaction. Warranties are marketing tools more than anything else.
To prove that a defect exists, you will need to hire an independent expert with the education, experience, and training to testify about defect causes in court. If your roof has a defect that causes it to leak, you will want to engage an expert who has designed sound roof systems and has experience in evaluating defective roof systems. Although an expert may help win your case, they can be expensive (up to $300 or more per hour), so consult an attorney before hiring the expert to control the expenses and protect the information.
In terms of recoverable damages, courts will award condominium owners’ associations the cost of repairing the defects. You can also claim any reasonable amounts paid to experts to determine the cause of the defects and supervise the repairs. Any amounts paid for temporary repairs (i.e. to prevent further damage) can also be recovered. If you had to leave your home because the defect(s) made it uninhabitable, relocation costs may be reimbursed. If the developer has defrauded the buyer, courts may award punitive damages.
If you’d like to learn more about any element of construction law, we are here to assist. Please contact us today!