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My home was built using shoddy materials. Can I sue?

Homeowners and construction companies can find themselves at loggerheads over alleged construction defects on new builds. Sometimes these defects are immediately obvious, e.g., water seeping or leaking, but some take a while to manifest.

Construction defects can be due to shoddy work done by the contractor or stem from inferior materials being used. Sometimes, there are several possible causes, including:

-- Poor selection or planning of the building site

-- Faulty soil analysis and/or preparation

-- Negligent construction

-- Lack of proper structural and civil engineering

-- Defects in the building materials

All alleged construction defects can land homeowners in court, attempting to establish liability on the part of sometimes multiple defendants, including designers, architects, builders, contractors and subcontractors, developers and even the manufacturers of the inferior materials.

Homeowners with pending lawsuits have a duty to mitigate the damage from these defects while the litigation is pending. While the costs can be recovered eventually in the suit, failing to protect the property from additional damages can reduce any eventual settlement or judgment.

Some common construction defects that wind up being litigated include:

-- Water problems

-- Mold

-- Structural failures

-- Faulty drainage

-- Improperly installed or operating electrical systems

-- Soil and landscaping

-- Dry rot

-- Cracks in the flooring, walls, roof or foundation

Most homeowners pursue double-barrel claims of repair costs and loss of property values, but damages may also include claims for loss of use and amounts expended on temporary housing. Administrative fees like court costs and sometimes attorney's fees can swell the total award also.

Source: Findlaw, "Construction Defect FAQs," accessed Nov. 11, 2016

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