California lawmakers passed the Right to Repair Act back in 2003, but it remains one of the most important laws for builders to understand if they face a construction defect claim.
A 2018 case, McMillin Albany LLC et al. v. the Superior Court of Kern County, solidified this act’s relevancy. The case determined that this law was the only avenue homeowners could take to seek damages for certain construction defects.
This decision has both benefits and drawbacks for builders.
HOW DOES THE RIGHT TO REPAIR ACT WORK?
The Right to Repair Act is incredibly complex. It is often beneficial to consult an experienced attorney to fully understand the regulations of this law, but here is a brief overview.
The three main functions of the act include:
- It defines a homeowner’s rights when they pursue damages for a construction defect.
- It also prescribes a builder’s liability for construction defects.
- It outlines the specific process of these claims.
On one hand the act offers some benefits for builders. The act essentially requires homeowners to engage in a dispute resolution process when they file a claim. Homeowners must give builders plenty of notice about their claim before they can pursue litigation. Additionally, it gives builders a chance to repair the defect and resolve matters out of court.
However, the drawback is that it essentially forces builders or construction companies to implicitly admit fault. The law might govern the dispute resolution process over construction defects, but builders must still approach these cases carefully.
PROPER DOCUMENTATION IS NECESSARY UNDER THIS ACT
To protect the company’s reputation, most builders, contractors and designers wish to avoid admitting fault. In many cases, the builders might not be at fault for a defect at all.
So, how can builders proactively protect their business against the risk of construction defect claims? One of the best strategies is to ensure the company has an organized and thorough record-keeping system.
The statute of limitations on many construction defect cases can extend up to 10 years. And the Right to Repair Act requires builders to provide property owners with copies of several documents pertaining to the project, including:
- Building plans;
- Grading plans;
- Soils reports;
- Engineering calculations; and
- Department of Real Estate public reports.
Keeping extensive and detailed records is not only essential under the Right to Repair Act, but it can help builders navigate these cases efficiently and even prove they were not at fault for the defect.