The process of building a residential property can require great attention to detail, as even the smallest error can lead to a major defect. In 2002, the California General Assembly adopted SB-800, or the Right to Repair Act, to handle construction defects in residential homes. The Right to Repair Act essentially implemented certain pre-litigation procedures to give builders a chance to repair defects before construction defect litigation.
What are the ‘pre-litigation’ procedures?
Generally, SB-800 requires builders to have notice and the opportunity to inspect and repair the defect or go through mediation. Here is a closer look at the process.
If a homeowner notices a construction defect, they are required under SB-800 to provide written notice of the defect to the builder. Builders, as defined by SB-800, may include:
- Original sellers
- General contractors
- Product manufacturers
- Design professionals
- Material suppliers
Acknowledgement and inspection
Once a builder has received notice from the homebuyer, the builder must acknowledge the buyer’s claim within 14 days. The builder then has another 14 days to conduct an inspection and an additional 40 days to do a second inspection.
Once the inspections are completed, the builder can offer to repair the defect and provide the buyer with a specific repair plan, as well as offer to pay certain damages.
Acceptance of offer, request alternatives, or mediation
Once the homeowner has received the builder’s plan, he or she has 30 days to choose one of the following options:
- Accept the builder’s offer
- Request the names of three new contractors to do the repairs
- Request mediation
If mediation is selected, it must occur within 15 days. The mediator can be paid for and chosen by both the builder and homeowner, or just the builder alone. Once the mediation is complete, the parties must either agree to a resolution or the homeowner must allow the repairs (which will be completed within 120 days, if possible). The builder must also pay the homeowner damages for the repairs performed.
Mediation after the repair
If there was no prior mediation, the homeowner must request one after the repairs are complete, before proceeding with litigation. If there is litigation, the Right to Repair Act contains various affirmative defenses that can be used by builders.
The Right to Repair Act prevents unnecessary construction litigation, while still protecting both builders and homebuyers. An attorney specializing in these matters can help you navigate these claims.