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Introduction

When you undertake a home renovation or construction project, you expect the end result to be a place of comfort and safety. However, what happens if the final product is not up to par because of construction defects? These deficiencies or faults can range from minor cosmetic issues to major structural flaws, and they can cause significant inconvenience, financial strain, and even safety risks.

In such cases, understanding construction defect claims and navigating legal recourse becomes crucial. For example, you are required to provide notice to cure along specific statutory guidelines to be able to initiate a lawsuit. You’ll also want to take strategic steps to maximize your potential recovery.

What Are Construction Defects?

A broad range of issues that arise from faulty workmanship, design flaws, or the use of inferior materials during the construction or renovation of a property. These imperfections can manifest in various parts of a structure, including:

  • Foundation
  • Roof
  • Porch
  • Pool
  • Flooring
  • Windows and doors
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Plumbing and electrical systems

Construction Defects Common Types

  • Structural instability
  • Cracks in the foundation
  • Leaks or cracks in the roof, ceilings, and walls
  • Warped or uneven floors
  • Inadequate insulation
  • Mold growth due to poor ventilation or water intrusion
  • Plumbing issues that can cause water damage
  • Faulty wiring that can lead to fire hazards
  • Porch or balcony collapse
  • Pool leaks or improper installation
  • Inadequate drainage that can result in water pooling or flooding

These anomalies not only detract from a property’s aesthetic appeal but also compromise its structural integrity and pose risks to the occupants. While some construction defects may be apparent immediately, others may take longer to surface, making it essential to inspect the property thoroughly before and after construction or renovation.

image of poor workmanship defecting construction

The construction defects most common causes includes selection of materials used, quality of workmanship and design flaws.

Construction Defects Common Causes

Poor Workmanship

Inadequate work quality during construction or renovation can lead to many irregularities. Contractors, builders, and subcontractors may take shortcuts to cut costs, resulting in shoddy work that causes defects.

Design Errors

Flaws in the initial design plans, such as incorrect measurements or improper structural calculations, can result in serious errors that compromise the integrity of the building.

Substandard Materials

The use of inferior or defective materials, whether knowingly or unknowingly, can contribute to the gradual development of alterations, such as rotting wood, corroded pipes, or cracked concrete.

Code Violations

Failure to adhere to building codes and regulations during construction can result in various defects that may pose safety hazards or lead to costly repairs down the line.

Environmental Factors

External factors such as extreme weather conditions, soil movement, or seismic activity can exacerbate existing imperfections or create structural weaknesses if contractors do not take proper precautions during building and works.

Suing a Contractor for Construction Defects

When the contractor refuses to address the situation and issues that you are facing, pursuing legal action may be necessary to seek compensation for damages and hold the responsible parties accountable. Here are some common causes of action in construction defect claims:

Breach of Contract

If the contractor fails to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the construction contract, such as delivering work of satisfactory quality or completing the project within the agreed-upon timeframe, they may be in breach of contract.

Negligence

Contractors owe a duty of care to their clients to perform their work with reasonable skill and competence. They may be liable for any resulting damages if they fail to meet this standard and their negligence results in construction defects.

Warranty Violation

Many building contracts include warranties that guarantee the quality and performance of the craft and materials used. If defects arise within the warranty period, the contractor may be obligated to remedy the issues at no additional cost to the homeowner.

Fraud or Misrepresentation

If the contractor knowingly conceals or misrepresents information about the quality of their work or the materials used, they may be liable for fraud or negligent misrepresentation.

Strict Liability

In some cases, strict liability may apply if the contractor’s actions or inaction directly caused the faults, regardless of their intent or level of care. This cause of action often applies to mass developers and contractors involved in large-scale projects.

Navigating the Legal Process

Filing a construction defect claim can be complex and daunting, especially for homeowners who may not be familiar with the intricacies of construction law. Seeking guidance from an experienced attorney is essential to ensure your rights are protected, and you have the best chance of obtaining a favorable outcome.

In pursuing a claim, plaintiffs typically follow these steps:

Documenting the Defects

Before taking any legal action, it is crucial to thoroughly document all anomalies and gather evidence, including photographs, videos, repair invoices, and expert opinions.

Notifying the Contractor

The homeowner must give the contractor a reasonable opportunity to remedy the irregularities within a reasonable timeframe before proceeding with legal action. This is referred to as a Notice and Opportunity to Cure. This step may involve sending a written notice of the issues and requesting repairs or demanding compensation. You must follow the requirements in S.C. Code 40-59-810.

Obtaining Expert Opinions

Engage qualified experts, such as engineers or building inspectors, to assess the extent of the defects and provide professional opinions on the cause and recommended solutions. These experts may also give testimony in court if necessary.

Negotiating With the Contractor

Attempt to resolve the issue amicably through negotiation or mediation with the contractor before escalating the matter to litigation. This approach may save time, money, and the stress of a court battle.

Filing a Lawsuit

If all attempts at resolution fail, file a lawsuit against the contractor, alleging the applicable causes of action and seeking damages for the construction defects. This step initiates the formal legal process and allows both parties to present their arguments in court.

Going to Court

Depending on the complexity and severity of the defects, the court may order a trial or schedule alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or mediation, to reach a fair resolution.

The Bottom Line

Construction defects can turn the dream of a perfect home or project into a nightmare of frustration and financial strain. However, homeowners are not powerless in the face of such challenges. Pursuing legal recourse, whether through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, can help homeowners reclaim their peace of mind and ensure that their homes are safe and structurally sound for years to come.

By knowing your rights, you can take proactive steps to hold contractors accountable for their mistakes and seek the compensation you deserve. At Henderson & Henderson Law Firm in Charleston SC, we have extensive experience handling construction defect claims and cases and are dedicated to protecting the rights of homeowners in these complex matters.

Contact us today (phone: (843) 212-3188) for a consultation to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

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