Property owners in Washington trust and expect that their contractors will build a safe, weatherproof, and reliable building. However, many construction projects result in hidden defective and unsafe workmanship. These hidden defects can lead to structural failure, water damage to the property, and even injury to the inhabitants.
A construction defect is any physical condition that reduces the value of a structure or endangers the health or safety of its occupants, that is a result of a flaw in design, materials, or workmanship, and that is not the result of normal aging or wear and tear (Justia.com).
These are typically identified during routine inspections of the structure and are clearly visible to the naked eye.
Often hidden or concealed from plain view, latent defects are not easily observed and may not be uncovered until long after the project is complete.
Improper concrete finishing, weatherproofing systems, flashing, and soil compaction are examples of workmanship defects. They are the result of a contractor’s failure to properly follow best industry practices, the manufacturer’s instructions, or other construction requirements. Issues such as wood rot, water seepage, cracks in foundations or walls, electrical issues, and mechanical errors can arise.
The use of inferior building materials can lead to significant issues, such as deteriorating flashing, leaking windows, and cracking concrete. These materials may fail to perform or function, even if they are installed correctly. Sometimes, material defects are not noticed until after they have been installed, including delaminated roof shingles and leaky window seals.
If an architect or engineers fails to produce an accurate set of construction documents, then design defects can occur. Some of the common problems that result from these errors include inadequate structural support and water penetration.
The Most Common Construction Defects
As mentioned above, hidden damages or “latent defects” may not be detected until after a project is completed and the structure/functions are in use. One common example of this type of damage in Washington is when the building is not constructed in a weather tight manner, allowing wind-driven rain to saturate the moisture-sensitive wood framing beneath the siding, causing it to rot.
Unfortunately, purchase inspections cannot identify these construction defects because they are covered by the siding, and most purchase inspectors are not qualified to identify these kinds of issues. Further, the building may be leaking, but the signs may not appear until the damage is catastrophic. The average cost to remediate the building envelope often exceeds $200,000 per unit.
The only way to identify the presence of defects before extensive damage occurs is through a visual inspection by an experienced forensic building envelope engineer, followed by an invasive investigation, if necessary.
Who Can File a Construction Defect Claim?
In Washington, a homeowner or larger group (such as a Homeowner’s Association) may bring a construction defect action against a construction professional. This includes contractors hired for renovations or for the initial construction of the residence.
Right to Repair
Before a claim can be filed, there is a 45-day “holding period” to allow the construction professional the opportunity the “right to repair.” This means that the contractor must first be notified of the issue and have the change to repair the defect or compensate the homeowner for the damages.
Statute of Limitations
The amount of a time that an Owner has to file a lawsuit varies with the type of claim. The recent Washington Supreme Court decision of Tadych v. Noble Ridge Construction established that the contractor’s attempt to limit the claims period to one year was not enforceable. The Court decided that the six-year period in RCW 4.16.310 applied instead. However, a shorter, three-year period typically applies to implied warranty of habitability claims, which starts to run when the Owner knew or should have known about the problems. Implied warranty of habitability claims are important because they bring in building requirements that the Contractor likely avoided promising to comply with in the contract.
Owners are encouraged to investigate their new construction homes early to determine the absence of presence of hidden construction defects. If your home, likely your largest asset, suffers from hidden construction defects, it is better to know before your rights against the Contractor expire. Otherwise, you will be stuck with the whole five or six figure repair bill.
Hire an Attorney
The team at Bungay Law has extensive experience recovering money to fix buildings. Do not hesitate to reach out to us today.
Get an Inspection
As soon as you notice defects in your structure, retain a qualified forensic construction consultant to determine the nature and extent of the hidden construction defects.
Contact Bungay Construction Defect Law today (206) 769-0093. Our experienced Construction Defect Law Attorney is available for a Free Consultation.