I am having problems with my home, and my builder is not being responsive. Do I need to hire a lawyer and file suit?
A lawsuit should always be the option of last resort. We strongly believe that a builder-developer should be given a reasonable chance to stand behind its product and make things right, especially because of the delays, expense and uncertainty of court action.
But, a homeowner also should protect their rights to recover damages for defects in their home. California has very strict timelines for filing an action for certain construction defects. After these dates pass for your home, you are barred from recovering anything for certain problems.
The attorneys at Ward & Hagen are happy to speak with you and to discuss your individual situation and help you decide the best course of action.
Can I enforce the warranty my builder gave me when I purchased the home?
Unfortunately, a warranty given by your builder is only as strong as the builder who will stand behind it. If the builder chooses not to respond to your warranty requests, it is almost impossible to force them to act.
However, a homeowner who received a warranty from a builder may have certain claims in a lawsuit against that builder.
What is a construction defect anyway?
A construction defect is legally defined in California as a defect that causes damage to another component part of a house. In addition, California law recently established certain specific standards that
if not followed are considered defects. You can read a complete list here. Building standards for original construction intended to be sold as an individual dwelling unit.
Ward & Hagen uses an experienced team of architects, engineers and contractors to analyze defects and to propose solid repairs. For examples of the typical defects and repair methods found in our cases, click here.
Can I force the builder to fix the defects in my home?
While you cannot force the builder to take action, if your home was first sold after January 1, 2003, then you must at least give them the opportunity to do so under California’s “Fix-it” law. There is no hard cost to the homeowner and the process of requesting a repair does not necessarily require you to retain an attorney, but you should consult one to protect your rights. Please contact our office for more information on how to initiate the repair process with your builder. If the builder performs the repairs to your satisfaction, then litigation may not be necessary. And if the builder is unwilling, or unable to repair your home, then you can retain attorneys and begin a lawsuit to recover funds to repair your home.
The following are the basic steps involved in obtaining a repair:
(All “§” citations are to the California Civil Code unless otherwise noted.).
California law sets out a pre-litigation procedure a homeowner is required to follow prior to filing suit to recover on claims of construction defects. (§§ 910, 914.)
The homeowner must give written notice to the builder of the claim that the builder violated construction standards in § 896 – 897, describing the nature and location of the claimed violations. (§ 910.)
The builder must acknowledge receipt of the notice within 14 days; if the builder elects to inspect and test the claimed defects, it must make its initial inspection within 14 days after acknowledgement of receipt of the notice, at a mutually convenient time. (§ 916.)
Within 30 days after inspection and testing, the builder may make a written offer to repair the defects, explaining which defects are to be repaired and the method of repair, identifying any contractors to be used to make the repairs, and setting a reasonable
completion date. (§ 917.)
Within 30 days, the homeowner may authorize the repairs as proposed, or request that the builder identify other contractors that may be used to implement the repairs; after the builder identifies other contractors, the
homeowner “shall authorize the builder or one of the alternative contractors to perform the repair.” (§ 918.)
The repair must be commenced within specified time periods, done “with the utmost diligence,” and “completed as soon as reasonably possible.” (§ 921.)
The builder’s offer to repair the defects must be accompanied by an offer to mediate the dispute if the homeowner chooses. (§ 919.)
As an alternative to an offer of repair, the builder may make the homeowner a cash offer. (§ 929.)
If the builder fails to acknowledge receipt of the claim, fails to make an offer to repair, fails to complete the repair within the time specified in the repair plan, or fails to “strictly comply with this chapter within the times specified,
the claimant is released from the requirements of this chapter and may proceed with the filing of an action.” (§§ 915, 920, 925, 930.)
A claimant may also file an action for a violation of the construction standards in § 896 – 897 alleging an inadequate repair. (§ 927.)
The Civil Code can be confusing at times (even for experienced attorneys) and we are happy to answer questions about how your home might be affected by the repair process.
I live in a condominium and am experiencing construction defects. Where do I go for help?
The California “Fix-it” law applies to attached dwellings as well as single family homes. In addition, associations have specific requirements they must fulfill in order to force the builder to deal with problems.
It is typically the homeowners association that must bring the claim to force repairs or eventually file a lawsuit.
Our attorneys have represented associations of all sizes and have successfully dealt with problems ranging from soils and waterproofing issues in underground parking garages to leaking windows on multistory buildings.
We will be happy to meet with your HOA board to discuss the options. Please contact us for more information.