Persons who purchase a new home sometimes discover defects in the home that are significant, costly, and highly disruptive. Under California law, there can be avenues of redress, although the area of construction defect law is quite specialized.
The first thing to consider in relation to a construction defect claim is the statute of limitations for bringing such a case. Under California law, there is a four year limitation period for patent or obvious defects, and a 10 years statute of repose for latent, or hidden defects. This means that ten years after completion of the home, the statute of limitations will have run regardless of whether the defect has manifested or the homeowner knows of it. Claims for work remodeling an older home would start to run once the remodeling is complete. The only exception to this ten year statute of repose is if there has been some deceit by the defendant, relied on by the homeowner, which delayed bringing a claim sufficient for application of the doctrine of equitable estoppel. Because the statute of limitations can defeat a claim regardless of its merits, homeowners are well advised to be vigilant about discovering and following up on defects and potential defects.
Homeowners who have a construction defect claim in California must comply with a prelitigation process known as SB 800. This requires the homeowner provide the builder with notice of the defects and an opportunity to repair it prior to initiating a civil action. Under SB 800, a homeowner can recover the cost of fixing a construction defect regardless of whether the defect has damaged other property, a concept known as resulting damage. Despite the availability of SB 800 claims, resulting damage is usually important to prove in a construction defect action. This is because the viability of other claims, like negligence, as well as the ability to trigger insurance coverage, often depends on proving resulting damage. Construction experts are needed to work up a construction defect case, including establishing the existence of resulting damage. Often these experts are needed early, as part of the SB800 prelitigation process.
Complicated insurance issues frequently arise in construction defect litigation. There are often many policies that provide available insurance, as the subcontractors involved in the defective work may have insurance as well as the general contractor, developer, and other potentially culpable parties. Moreover, often there are umbrella or excess policies that may provide coverage. Some construction projects, however, are now utilizing other policies that complicate the insurance policy picture, including wrap and burning limit policies. The different insurance policies that must be analyzed, triggered and coordinated in a construction defect action can often be one of the most complex parts of the case.
If you are experiencing construction defect problems, you may need an experienced lawyer to help navigate California law and the construction and insurance issues involved. The lawyers of Haffner Law have handled hundreds of construction defect and insurance property damage cases, and have recovered tens of millions of dollars or both homeowners and businesses owning property. The attorneys at Haffner Law are available for a free consultation about any construction defect problems you are experiencing.