Buying a new home, rather than an existing one, does not always mean it is free of problems. In fact, construction defects in condominiums and new homes are likely more common than you think. With that said, undisclosed problems with your home are not always easy to spot. Many defects are not discovered during escrow, but become apparent over time after you move in.
A few examples of the many types of construction defects include:
- Significant cracks in the foundation
- Moisture problems from improper drainage or waterproofing
- Slanting or bowing floors or walls
- Leaky roofs
- Leaky windows
- Faulty plumbing
- Faulty framing
What you can do if you find undisclosed problems with your home
If you notice signs of construction defects in your home, it is essential to act quickly to resolve the issue. The first thing you want to do is document the issue with photos, then notify the builder. Most builders have someone who handles repairs and problems on new homes during the term of the warranty. If your new home carries a warranty, usually there are issues that are covered for the first year. Some issues are covered for two years, while others are under warranty for ten years. There are, of course, exceptions with warranties. If there are serious problems and major defects, you should contact a construction defect lawyer immediately. These warranties are misleading and often do not cover major problems or are used as excuses to avoid liability. The builder is unlikely to respond to major defects unless you have proper representation, and will usually stall and delay.
If a warranty no longer covers the problem, and if you are convinced that the issue is more serious than the builder will acknowledge, or if the builder does not fix the item to your satisfaction, you still have options.
You can pressure the builder to fix undisclosed problems with your home by hiring an independent inspector. It is especially important to do this before the end of each warranty term so that you can have problems addressed before time runs out. You can also seek legal help to enforce your rights.
The ultimate goal of addressing a construction defect issue is to have the builder take care of the repair without any out-of-pocket expense for the homeowner. The reality is that it can sometimes be difficult to force a builder to address these issues without the threat of litigation. Often, a builder will try to pass off responsibility and say that it was the job of a subcontractor he hired to perform the work at issue.
Help with fighting construction defects
Retaining an experienced construction attorney as soon as you are aware that you have a construction defect issue is an effective way to make sure all of the responsible parties are held accountable for fixing the work and are forced to respond to your requests in a timely fashion. Homebuilders typically have insurance policies that cover your claim, but the coverage issues are quite complicated and builders will often ignore homeowners who are not represented by an attorney. Also, you must act promptly and be aware of the statutes of limitations. This is why hiring an experienced litigator is essential.
Filing a construction defect claim
If you are not able to reach a satisfactory result working with the builder, you can file a construction defect claim. If you go this route, keep in mind that there are laws in California that impose a time limit on certain lawsuits. The length of time needed to bring a construction defect action against the builder is based on:
- The amount of time that has passed since the substantial completion of the property
- The nature of the defect
- When the property owner discovered the defect
Construction defect laws can be difficult to understand, and a law firm that specializes in construction defect litigation can help you understand your rights as a property owner and the timing aspects of filing a lawsuit. Timothy Norton of Norton & Associates has more than 30 years of experience litigating construction defect cases. If you need help correcting construction defects or undisclosed problems in your home, contact our firm today. We’re here to help.