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How Long is a Home Builder Responsible for Construction Defects?

— December 10, 2021

If your new home construction has major issues that are causing harm, it’s time to take action.

Building a custom home from scratch or renovating your space can be very exciting. As anyone knows, however, plenty of issues can arise during and after the construction process.

Worse than discovering small imperfections in your home is realizing that major construction mistakes are causing actual harm. Construction defects like leaks, mold, sinking or cracking can be detrimental to your property and to your physical health. Perhaps these errors were easy to overlook on the day of inspection, but as time has passed you realize that the mistakes are more significant than you thought. Your biggest investment is also losing value.

What are Home Construction Defects?

Construction defects come in various forms and produce a variety of problems for homeowners. Every state has different laws and statutes of limitation regarding construction policy.

In Texas, construction defects are defined as “a matter concerning the design, construction, or repair of a new residence, of an alteration of or repair or addition to an existing residence, or of an appurtenance to a residence, on which a person has a complaint against a contractor.” This includes any physical damage to the residence or its property.

Here are some examples of common construction defects that can cause serious repercussions and be costly to fix:

  • Water leaks impairing the integrity of the structure
  • Inappropriate site selection or preparation
  • Improperly installed windows or doors
  • Improperly applied stucco or other exterior cladding
  • Poorly installed roofing
  • Toxic mold growth
  • Mold growth from water intrusion
  • Architectural design errors that threaten the safety of the structure
  • Lack of structural support
  • Foundation sinking or cracking
  • Floors warping
  • Cracking and crumbling of walls
  • Faulty plumbing, electric, or HVAC systems

Example in the News

A major construction defect lawsuit that’s currently happening is the one in response to the Miami condominium collapse. 98 people were killed when the Surfside condo fell in June 2021, and now building developers from a neighboring project are being sued by the survivors’ families. The families believe that excavation and construction on a luxury building next door caused the collapse.

Is Your Builder Liable for the Construction Defects?

Any certified home contractor has a legal responsibility to build within certain standards and codes to ensure safety. Unfortunately, a serious construction defect can stand in the way of these reasonable expectations.

InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

When defects occur, it is the duty of the builder or developer, or in some cases the manufacturer of defective materials, to repair any problems, remediate damage that results, and compensate you for economic and quality-of-life losses that you and your family members have suffered.

Most home builders have a warranty on their work, but it may not last long. Make sure you take a look at your contract to see how long the warranty lasts. If the construction is not up to reasonable standards, you may have a breach of contract case on your hands. Most construction defect lawsuits qualify as a breach of contract, since the builder has legally agreed to build a safe and defect-free home.

Statute of Limitations

You only have a certain number of years to report your construction defects. Depending on the state, you will need to prove that the problem occurred or was discovered within three to ten years. Some states also have a statute of repose, which is essentially the opposite of a statute of limitations. It prevents construction defect claims from being made after a certain number of years, in order to protect builders.

What Can a Construction Lawyer Do?

If you have discovered defects in your home construction, there are a few steps you should take. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to hire a licensed building inspector. You will want to have a full scope of the issues, in the language of a home inspector. It will also help to have some documentation and a second opinion besides your own. Next, you should report the construction faults to the builder or developer of your home. If they are a reputable builder, they should offer to fix the issues. Don’t count on it, though. Many builders, once paid, won’t be jumping to return your calls.

This is where the legal professionals come in. A residential construction defects attorney will be able to guide you through the process of holding the builders accountable. In a large majority of cases, your lawyer will be able to compel the builder to make repairs and to compensate you for the damages to your health, home value, and quality of life that his or her negligence has caused.

A construction attorney will probably be able to negotiate a resolution without you having to go to court. If a solution cannot be worked out in initial negotiations with the builder, the next step is usually mediation or arbitration. If the case does indeed go to court, your attorney will fight for your case at the trial, using expert testimonials from construction industry professionals. Soon enough you should have the compensation you deserve and be on your way to repairing your home.

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