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The defenses to a construction defect claim and their application

People in the construction industry in California are held to certain standards of performance whenever they perform work on a project or construction plan. Generally, they are required to perform work as expected and that comports to the applicable standards required of the project by the language of the contract, agreement, state or local regulation or as is customary for work of that type. They must typically guarantee that their work is free from any defect that could compromise the integrity or safety of a project. However, when other parties to the contract raise questions as to the quality of work, there are defenses a party can raise.

Typically, a builder cannot be held responsible for the actions of others, so if the alleged defect was caused by another party to the contract or the property owner, he or she may raise this defense. Likewise, if a tenant or other party abuses or neglects to maintain the property or the damage is the result of ordinary wear and tear, the builder is typically not liable.

A builder also cannot be held responsible for "acts of God" or nature that compromises the construction project. For example, suppose that a major wind storm knocks over a supporting wall several weeks after the project is complete. If the cause of the damage was the wind and not the failure of the wall to comport with quality and safety standards, the builder generally cannot be held liable.

Any claims regarding alleged defects also must be brought within the applicable statute of limitations. This means that the person accepting the work must raise these issues with the builder within a reasonable period of time once he or she discovered or should have discovered the alleged defect. In addition, the builder usually must be given a reasonable period in which to repair or replace the alleged defect before he or she can be found to be in breach of the contract.

Every project is different and complex in its own way, so people dealing with construction contract issues should rely on an attorney with the knowledge and experience to deal with these claims and the potential defenses that could be raised.

Source: "California Construction Compendium," accessed April 14, 2015

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