Constructio Defect Attorney Oakland CA
Written by Edward Lai

How to Avoid a Construction Defects Lawsuit

As a construction contractor or sub-contractor, one of the biggest things that you must try to avoid is a construction defects lawsuit. So what is a constructions defects lawsuit? Basically, it is a lawsuit that comes from a disgruntled customer on the premise that the customer is not satisfied with the finished construction product for one reason or another.

Normally, under California law, the statute of limitations for such a lawsuit is 10 years after completion of the building, for “latent” defects, under California of Civil Procedure Section 337.15.   It is four years if the defect is “patent”, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 337.1.

The cause of such a lawsuit can stem from any number of reasons, even those that are beyond your control.   Here are some tips on how to maximize avoiding the potential of becoming a party to a construction defects lawsuit:

Get it Right the First Time

This might sound simple, but a lot of construction defects lawsuits come from small deviations from the building code or the main architect’s/engineer’s plan.  Change orders are common in construction, as owners change their minds as the construction progresses or unknown/unexpected issues are discovered.  As a contractor, draft a Request for Information “RFI” to the design professional.  Follow up with all instructions for any change/revision by the owner with a confirming letter.  In order words, make sure there is a “paper trail” for your agreements.

Another big point of concern to watch out for is the building materials.   Contractors should be careful about the materials purchased. The rule of thumb is that if the deal for the building materials seem too good be true, it usually is.   Cheap materials can and usually break more easily and degrade faster.   Keep to the required specifications called for in the plans.  Use the best quality materials allowed by the scope of work/cost estimate agreed upon with the owner.

Keep to the Building Code

Each project comes with its own challenges, and one of the biggest problems is keeping with the project deadlines. Many contractors find themselves in a time crunch to finish the project according to schedule or earlier than originally thought.   To complete projects on time, it is often tempting to start cutting corners.   This should be avoided at all costs as building code inspectors are trained to look for and find these “cut corners”.   If for any reason, the inspector fails to detect potentially dangerous cut corners, and the occupants suffer injuries, the contractor could be liable.  The fact that the work passed inspections will not serve as a defense to the contractor.

Document Everything

As stated above, document everything!   This cannot be emphasized enough!  Keeping written documentations to confirm all deviations from the plans and specifications, changes, agreements and communications during the course of a project will not only help in avoiding a potential lawsuit, but is also a great way to help the contractor recall all of the transactions and agreements years later when the claim arises.

Stick to the Budget

Time and money are always the two driving forces in construction.  One critical mistake any contractor can make is going over the proposed budget for the project for whatever reason.    While staying within a budget can be difficult at times, crucial decisions must be made correctly for the project to finish without problems.  Budget cuts must be made efficiently and without endangering the stability of the project.  Again, maintaining written documentation of all changes/communications with the owner may save you much headaches in the future.

Hopefully, this brief discussion may help contractors in avoiding a Building Defects Lawsuit.   For additional tips and advice on this topic, you can always contact a lawyer.   For a free consultation on a possible Building Defects Lawsuit against you, call 510-397-8287 or email:  elai@edwardlailaw.com

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