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What is a defective work claim in construction disputes?

A defective work claim is one of the most common sources of conflict during construction. Property owners are understandably upset when they find out that their new home suffers from a serious construction defect that is going to be expensive -- if not impossible -- to fix.

However, it isn't always easy to determine who is really responsible for the problem. Some construction defects -- like badly fitted windows that leak or improperly installed flooring -- can be easily traced to their source. In other situations, like when a foundation turns out to be cracked because the home was built on improperly prepared soil, it may be harder to determine exactly who should shoulder the responsibility (and cost).

Here are two of the most important issues that anyone who hopes to pursue a lawsuit over a construction defect needs to know:

The time limits on a claim

There are always time limits involved when there is a problem that might end up in a lawsuit. The time limit in a defective work complaint can vary. The time limit on a defect that is patent -- or obvious to a reasonable person -- is going to expire faster than the time limit on a defect that is hidden, or "latent."

Unfortunately, even what is and is not "obvious to a reasonable person" can be a subject of debate in court. That's why it is critical to take action as soon as you suspect that you may have a problem.

A duty to mitigate the damage

Some construction defects can lead to additional property damage if they aren't corrected quickly after their discovery. For example, leaky windows can ultimately lead to rot and mold in the window frames and walls if the leaks aren't quickly repaired.

While that can be expensive, homeowners are generally under an obligation to mitigate their own damages. You can't wait to make repairs until the lawsuit with your contractor is settled.

Because the issues involving defective construction work can be complicated, it's important that you understand all your obligations going forward. A consultation with a construction litigation attorney can help put you in the best position possible to eventually recover your losses.

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