There are many reasons for construction defects to occur. Issues can stem from design flaws, inadequate materials, substandard workmanship, or a combination thereof. Design errors may include improper structural plans or flawed blueprints, leading to structural instability. The use of subpar materials can result in premature deterioration, while poor workmanship can manifest in shoddy construction practices, such as faulty plumbing or electrical systems. Environmental factors, negligence on the part of contractors, or even regulatory compliance failures can further exacerbate construction defects. Our attorneys at ACTS LAW are well-versed in identifying the root causes of construction defects and are committed to helping clients seek legal remedies and attain resolution in complex construction-related disputes.
Some of the causes of Construction Defects in California include:
Soil problems and water intrusion are two main defects that cause long-term damage to your home, affecting its stability and structural integrity. Soil problems can cause the foundation of your home to shift, sink, and crack. This can wreck the framing and compromise the connections between the framing members and the foundation. Signs of soil and foundation issues include the following:
Water intrusion into the building envelope can occur through multiple sources. Common leaks are through decks, balconies, roofs, windows, and doors. Deck or balcony to wall transitions at and around doors are prime locations. Signs of water intrusion include the following:
Water intrusion may be due to damaged building materials, poor workmanship, or defective design.
Pinhole leaks are tiny, destructive openings in copper pipes. Although many plumbers now use PEX piping, millions of homes still have copper pipes. Pinhole leaks can cause the entire plumbing system to fail. They happen when corrosion inside a pipe gets severe enough to reach the pipe’s exterior. It can occur if the velocity of the water going through the pipe is very high, or when pipe fittings are too close together.
Misplacement of pipefittings may be considered a construction defect due to poor workmanship. Dripping noises or higher water bills are indications of pinhole leaks. Mildew or water stains on walls, as well as areas of mold, are another clue.
When pipes burst in a home, especially on an upper floor, the water damage can be expensive and may run into the millions.
Construction defects are more common when there is a building boom, along with a shortage of qualified labor or supplies. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there was a widespread shortage of drywall. More than 500 million pounds of substandard, contaminated drywall were subsequently imported from China. This caused serious health conditions, such as asthma and breathing difficulties for people living in newly constructed homes throughout the southeastern U.S. In August 2019, manufacturers of the drywall agreed to settle a lawsuit that claimed their product was defective.
In California, the rapid population growth and subsequent building boom in the 1980s and 1990s wreaked havoc on the construction industry, according to the Casualty Actuarial Society. Many contractors could not find enough skilled laborers; they allowed unqualified workers to complete projects without proper supervision. Even today, approximately 80 percent of construction companies report that it is difficult to find enough skilled workers.
Determining the Cause of Defects and the Extent of Damage
Unfortunately, some developers and contractors still cut corners when building homes. Laws exist to protect innocent homeowners from unscrupulous businesses; however, it is often difficult to determine the cause of defects in court, as well as to provide evidence of the full extent of the damage.
According to California Senate Bill 800 (SB 800), homeowners have the right to bring legal action against builders for construction defects. Also known as the Right to Repair Act, SB 800 outlines a specific process to follow. For example, a homeowner must provide the builder with a written notice of the defects. Homeowners must also maintain their properties; failure to do so may jeopardize their right to seek compensation for defects. The bill also defines different types of construction defects, as well as various types of liability. The bill is complex and subject to updates.
In order to win a claim, a plaintiff must file before the statute of limitations expires. In California, there are different statutes of limitations, depending on the type of defect, ranging from several years for obvious defects to 10 years for hidden problems. Success also depends on the effectiveness and credibility of the testimony of construction experts. These experts can investigate the defect, determine the cause, and provide testimony regarding the process and cost of fixing the defects.
Plaintiffs who sue builders for construction defects can often obtain compensation for the cost of repairs. They may be able to recover money for any decline in the home’s value, as well as “loss of use” of the home during the time it was being repaired. If the construction defect caused a catastrophic injury, the plaintiff may also be able to obtain compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
Homeowners may be able to recover damages for repairs made while the lawsuit is pending because the homeowner is responsible for protecting the property from further damage. Homeowners are also allowed to sell their homes while a lawsuit is pending, but they must disclose to a potential buyer that the property is involved in litigation.
The builder’s insurance company will likely be responsible for paying the damages. However, subcontractors or suppliers of defective building materials may also be deemed liable. If the construction defect was determined to be caused by a flawed design, architects and engineers may be held liable. Electricians, plumbers, roofers, and other building professionals may also be deemed negligent if their workmanship failed to conform to applicable building codes or standards outlined in SB 800.
Many parties may be involved in the construction of a home. All these parties may have their own separate insurance policies. Each insurance company will use its own set of lawyers in defending their clients against a claim. In addition, there may be umbrella policies providing coverage, further complicating the situation. In a construction litigation case, each policy must be carefully analyzed to determine the amount of compensation legally due to the homeowner. The complexity of construction defect litigation calls for experienced, skilled legal representation by attorneys who are intimately familiar with insurance law. Call today for a free consultation and to talk to one of our attorneys.
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