By definition, a construction defect is a condition that reduces your home’s value. There are two primary categories of defect: “patent” defects, which can be spotted right away, and “latent” problems that don’t appear until years after your home was built.
What causes defects?
These problems typically occur if inferior materials were used or the construction work was not completed in accordance with good practice. Other leading causes include:
- Improper site selection and planning
- Civil or structural engineering errors
- Problems with soil analysis and preparation
What are the most common types?
The construction defects most commonly involved in litigation include water problems, faulty drainage, mold, dry rot, and cracks that appear in the roof, walls, or foundation. For a claim to succeed, a homeowner must have an expert examine the defect, determine its source, and recommend ways to remedy it. This expert will then testify in court to back the plaintiff’s claim.
Who is responsible?
Most times, the responsibility lies with the developers, builders, and general contractors. Designers and architects can also be held liable for construction defects.
What damages are recoverable?
If your home shows a patent or latent defect, the amount of damages you will recover will depend on the circumstances of the case. Recoverable damages include:
- Repair costs
- Decline in the value of the property
- Cost of temporary housing during the repair
- Court costs
If anyone was injured due to the defect, the party responsible may be liable for associated damages. Punitive damages could also be levied if the court decides that their conduct was reckless or willful.
Is there a time limit for filing?
Laws will vary from state to state, but in Florida, construction defect lawsuits must generally be filed within four years from the latest of the following situations:
- The date you actually took possession of the home
- The date that a certificate of occupancy was issued
- The date that construction was stopped (if the work was never completed)
- The date of completion or termination of the contract between the engineer, architect, or contractor and the employer
If a latent defect is involved, § 95.11(3)(c), Fla. Stat. states that “the time runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.”
Can repairs be made while a lawsuit is in progress?
As a homeowner you are required to prevent further damage to your property, so repairs may be made and the costs are recoverable. Otherwise, the defense may argue that you failed to mitigate damages.
Can a home be sold while it is the subject of a construction defects lawsuit?
While you are allowed to sell your home during the litigation process, Florida’s disclosure law requires you to inform potential buyers of all known facts about the property, such as taxes, past and present condition, and need for repairs. Litigation over construction defects arguably falls in this category.
If you have any questions on the subject, or if you need assistance with any aspect of construction law, we can help. Please contact us today to learn more!