Housing and Construction Defects

Homeowners put trust in the contractors and other professionals building their homes. When housing and construction defects cause them money or even make their homes unsafe, legal action may be necessary.

What Are Housing and Construction Defects?

A housing or construction defect is any error, mistake, or faulty product or material in a home’s construction. It could be minor, such as a leaky sink, that doesn’t cost much to remedy. Other defects are costly; for instance, if the plumbing throughout the house is bad and must be redone.

Sometimes, defects are not just expensive but also harmful. Bad electrical wiring could cause a fire that injures or even kills someone. Defects may be minor and the result of an honest mistake. When they are major due to negligence or fraud, the homeowner may take legal action against those responsible.

Common Housing and Construction Defects

It helps to know what to look for if you are having a new home built. Keep an eye on the construction process and check up on contractors and other workers. Look for issues that may become major problems later. Some of the more common defects seen in new construction include:[1][2]

  • Deficiencies in weather barriers on the exterior of the house that cause leaks or insulation and heating issues
  • Defects in the plumbing, electrical, or mechanical systems
  • Window and door installation defects
  • Structural framing defects
  • Improperly installed wood flooring, including gaps and warping
  • Ventilation and exhaust problems
  • Substituting inferior materials or products

What Are the Consequences of Housing and Construction Defects?

A defect in the construction of your home could be a minor hassle or a major problem. Many people sue for defects because they cost money. You may have significant damages as a result of a defect. For instance, if a leak from the house exterior causes your wood floors to warp, the cost of replacing them and fixing the leak could be thousands of dollars.

You may also claim damages in terms of property value. Inferior materials used in the construction of the home will lower the value of your house compared to what you expected.

Finally, a defect in a home could result in injury to residents. A bad outlet could cause a shock or even start a fire. A home not constructed according to code in an earthquake zone could collapse completely. A deck constructed without adequate support could fall.

Who is Liable for Housing and Construction Defects?

When you build a new home, you enter into contracts with several professionals. They are responsible for providing reasonable services, quality materials, and quality design and construction, free from flaws, defects, and dangers.

If your new home has a serious defect that results in damages, you can sue, but you need to determine who has been negligent and is liable. There are a few possibilities:

  • The developer
  • An architect or engineer
  • Contractors or subcontractors
  • Materials manufacturers and suppliers

What Kind of Legal Claim Can I Make over Construction Defects?

You may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages if you can prove someone was negligent or broke the law in constructing your home. Several issues may apply in your situation:

  1. Negligence
    If someone has been negligent in constructing your home, it means they failed to take reasonable care. Mistakes may happen, but you expect a certain standard of professionalism to minimize errors. A contractor could be negligent, for instance, for hiring someone unqualified or untrained to do a certain job.  
  2. Breach of contract
    When you enlist a developer or construction company to build your home, they are under contract. If they do not live up to the terms of that contract, you may be able to sue for any resulting damages.
  3. Breach of warranty
    Contracts for new homes often include warranties for materials, appliances, and other products. Vendors and builders are responsible for upholding those warranties, and if they do not, you may need to take legal action.
  4. Strict liability
    When you construct or buy a home, there is an implied warranty of habitability. This does not have to be in the contract. It is assumed that the builder or developer is providing a habitable home. If they do not, strict liability may apply. This means you do not have to prove negligence. You only have to show that the builder or developer was responsible for the house, that it has a defect, and that the defect resulted in damages.
  5. Fraud
    In some cases, builders and others commit fraud. They misrepresent the quality of a home or lie about defects.

What Should I Do if I Find a Defect in My Home?

First, document the defect. This means taking pictures of it and recording any evidence of a problem before correcting it. Then, talk to a lawyer who specializes in these kinds of cases. Take these steps before making any repairs unless your safety is at risk.

A lawyer will tell you what to do next. They may bring in experts, such as engineers or contractors, to evaluate the defect. They can then advise you on what to do next. They can tell you if you have a case to sue, what damages you may claim, and what your chances are of winning.

Finding a defect in your new home is disappointing. It’s also costly and potentially dangerous. Contractors and builders have a professional standard, and if they violate it, you can hold them liable for any resulting damages.

  1. Realtor Magazine. (2020, January 24). Most Common Sources of Construction Defects.
    Retrieved from: https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2020/01/24/most-common-sources-of-construction-defects
  2. Cohen, M. (2019, May 22). The 7 Most Common Construction Defects: A Condo Buyers Guide. Brick Underground.
    Retrieved from: https://www.brickunderground.com/blog/2013/08/new_construction_is_back_so_are_their_construction_problems