When you purchase a home or commercial property, whether it was recently built or has been standing for years, you have the right as the buyer to know about all of the things wrong with it. In the real estate world, issues with a building and property are called construction defects, especially when the issue is not subjective but rather based on an objective not-up-to-building-code problem. As you can imagine, a construction defect can plummet the value of a piece of real estate, so it is only fair that you are told about them upfront and know that you are paying a price that has been adjusted based on the estimated costs to fix those defects.
Some of the most common types of construction defects are:
- Mold growth: Mold can grow in the dark, dank corners of a property and go unnoticed for years. While most mold growth is relatively harmless, some mold – like the infamous black mold – can trigger dangerous allergic reactions when inhaled. Mold remediation costs can be steep depending on the extent of the mold growth, which should have been reflected in the cost of the property.
- Roof leaks: If you buy a piece of property during the dry season, then you might never know about roof leaks and drainage issues until the next time it rains. All leaks are annoying, but some can be downright destructive if the leak damages your property, causes wood rot, or contributes to mold growth.
- Foundation problems: Oftentimes one of the most expensive types of construction defects is foundation issues, such as cracks, lifting, or sinking. When the foundation under a piece of property is unstable or otherwise damaged, it can make it dangerous to continue living or conducting business in the building. There are ways to reset and repair damaged foundations, but they are never cheap.
- Unsafe electrical wiring: Some property owners try to update or install electrical systems themselves to save a dollar, not realizing that they are creating a serious electrical hazard and construction defect that must be corrected as soon as possible.
- Old or damaged plumbing: As time goes by, all pipes and plumbing systems will start to wear down. Property owners should maintain and update the plumbing as needed. If there are old, rusted pipes, then they should inform any potential buyers.
However, it is common for construction defects to go unannounced during a real estate transaction. In many cases, the seller has not done a thorough job inspecting the property, so they do not know about the defects and, therefore, cannot disclose them. In other cases, sellers try to hide the defects from the buyer as a sly – and unlawful – way of getting a higher price for the real estate than is fair based on its condition.
As a buyer, you can hire a third-party property inspector to look for construction defects, sometimes after you have made an initial offer and the property is in escrow. Some states have laws written that encourage you to get this inspection completed before finalizing a transaction to reduce the chances of getting blindsided by a defect later and needing to rely on litigation to get the situation resolved.
I Found a Construction Defect – Now What?
As a buyer of a new piece of property, you should arrange for a full inspection of it as soon as possible after the transaction closes, even if you already had an inspection done during escrow. If the inspector finds a construction defect, then you might be able to hold the seller or the construction company that built the property accountable for any costs of repairs or updates needed to fix the defect. You will only have a limited amount of time to make a construction defect claim, though. The statute of limitations varies from state to state, so it is always better to take action quickly after buying a home or commercial property.
If you find a construction defect on a newly purchased piece of property in Colorado and that defect was not disclosed, let Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. help you explore your legal options to make things right. Our attorneys can work with individuals as well as homeowners’ associations. Call (720) 491-3117 for details.