California Construction Defect Pre-Claims Process

What is a Construction Defect?

Building projects often have difficulty meeting deadlines, and change orders involving revised specifications and alterations are common. Construction defects go well beyond these issues. They include errors in design and construction that must be corrected or, if left uncorrected, will continue to cause property damage and diminish the value of your home A construction defect is a condition that violates:

  • A uniform building code
  • Approved architectural plans and specifications
  • A manufacturer’s installation recommendations
  • Industry building standards

Construction defects include any form of water intrusion from roofs, decks, windows, and doors, excessive stucco cracking, foundation cracks or deterioration, wood trim splitting, plumbing leaks, exterior ponding, A/C, and electrical.

California’s Construction Defect Preclaim Process

The state of California has many state laws, local laws, and regulations governing construction standards, warranties, and rights to repair.  One particular law, Senate Bill 800, was enacted in 2002 in an effort to minimize construction defect litigation and offer the developer a right to inspect and repair construction defects. The law adds notice, repair, and mediation requirements to residential construction defect claims.

Initially, the builder will make an election to either follow the rules of SB 800 or opt-out of this process for another form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) normally found in the governing documents of the Association or the purchase contract.

SB 800 provides that prior to filing a lawsuit, he or she must submit a reasonably detailed notice of the alleged defect and provide it to the builder. The builder then has 14 days to acknowledge receipt of the notice and another 14 days to conduct an inspection. The builder may conduct a second inspection within 40 days. Thereafter, the builder has 30 days to offer to repair the construction defect or to offer to make a cash payment

The homeowner then has 30 days to accept the repairs or the cash payment. If the homeowner elects for the builder to make repairs, such repairs must be started within 14 days, done with the utmost diligence, with every effort made to complete the repair within 120 days.

If the builder fails to:

  • Acknowledge receipt of the claim
  • Request an inspection within the time period specified
  • Make an offer to repair
  • Complete the repair, or
  • Make an acceptable cash offer

then the homeowner may proceed with litigation.

Note that a builder need not agree to follow SB800. It is a totally optional process. However, if the builder decides not to follow the process, then a homeowner is not obliged to engage in this construction defect preclaim process. However, a builder may elect to follow other, more burdensome procedures found in the purchase documents. A review of these documents by an attorney is critical at the start of this process as they contain provisions that, if not followed, will terminate a claim.

No Cost Document Review

Chaix Law has over 25 years of experience helping homeowners and Homeowner Associations protect their investments. We can manage the entire process and make you whole again. We will review your purchase contract or CC&R’s and outline your pre-claim obligations at no cost. Contact us. We are here to help.