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What is a construction defect?

There are often disagreements over the definition of a construction defect. Different viewpoints and interests create a gray area. Moreover, states have their definition of what constitutes a construction defect. One point that all agree upon, however, is that it is broadly defined as a defect in workmanship, design, materials, or systems used. The result is a failure of the building project or structure that causes damages to people or property. This, in turn, leads to financial losses or harm to the owner.

Construction defects often mean legal action, ideally there are arbitration protocols laid out in the construction contract, but it can be litigation if the dispute remains unresolved. One side the service or supplier tries to defend themselves from liability; on the other is the owner or customer who is trying to recoup losses incurred through damages.

Types of defects

There are different types of construction defects:

  • Patent defects: These are obvious problems recognized during the building process or inspection.
  • Latent defects: This is a hidden problem that emerges later.
  • Design defects: These are generally an omission or mistake by the design professional that is discovered and then corrected by the builder or contractor.
  • Workmanship defects: This is an error by the contractor or builder in executing the construction documents.

Standard of care

Rarely is the owner at fault. The builder, contractor, subcontractor, and consultants all have a duty to execute their work as laid out in the construction contracts. They are obligated to review the contract to perform or facilitate the work within the acceptable standards of their industry. They should also visit the site to become familiar with local conditions and ensure that the work is up to agreed-upon standards. They are not responsible for ensuring that the building contract conforms with all laws – this responsibility falls upon the design professionals unless the builders, contractors or consultants do not identify design defects.

Something to avoid or resolve

It is the best interest of all involved to recognize and resolve any construction defect. They should then address these before the conclusion of a project. Finding fixes or solutions is less expensive than legal action and protects the professional reputations of those ultimately responsible for the work. Those who cannot agree upon a fair resolution or who is responsible often turn to attorneys with a background in construction disputes and construction contracts.