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Accused of construction defects? It can get costly

It's important that construction company owners and builders understand that to the homeowner, they are the literal last line of defense against a defective end product. As such, they may face legal liabilities if a defect is discovered at some future point.

In order to be able to build a credible defense against any allegations of shoddy worksmanship, it helps to understand all of the factors that can cause a defect.

What are construction defects?

Conditions that detract from the home's value may be construed as defects, with some being far more obvious to homeowners than others.

Water seeping into the home from the ground is likely to be one that is readily observant, as all it may take to manifest is a hard, spring rain.

But others are much more insidious and may only be revealed after many months (or even years) have passed. They can include:

  • Presence of mold
  • Problems with the electrical or heating systems
  • Faulty drainage
  • Cracks in the walls, roof, floor or foundation
  • Issues with the landscaping or soil
  • Dry rot
  • Structural failures

What are their causes?

Some construction defects can be linked to substandard work by the construction company itself or one of its subcontractors. Still others have roots in the use of inferior building materials.

Often, multiple factors are to blame for construction defects, such as:

  • Poor planning or site selection
  • Improper analysis or preparation of soil
  • Failures in structural or civil engineering
  • Negligence

How is my company linked to the defect?

In civil cases tried in court, the plaintiff must prove that the fault lay with the builder, developer or general contractor. As subcontractors are hired by general contractors, their work is also subject to the scrutiny of those ultimately in charge of the work, i.e., your company. However, in some situations, blame may be assigned to or shared by the designers or architects.

Patent versus latent defects

Patent defects are usually easier to prove liability for, as these are obvious. Latent defects are not and may go undetected for long periods of time. In order to hold a builder or contractor liable, plaintiffs rely on expert testimony from those in the industry. These professionals conduct their own investigations and evaluations into the causes of the defects and then recommend how best to remedy them.

Costs associated with these cases can be substantial, so launching an effective defense early is prudent.

Source: FindLaw, "Construction Defect FAQs," accessed March 30, 2018

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