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When will subcontractors be liable for construction defects?

If you are working as a subcontractor in the construction industry in New Jersey, it is likely that at some point in time you will deal with a construction defect claim from a homeowner. These cases occur when a homeowner finds a defect within the construction of their home and wants to pursue litigation.

Construction defect cases are one of the most common claims for litigation due to the broad spectrum of problems that can occur when building. It is beneficial to know the different types of defects in order to determine who is liable. 

Patent defects

This type of defect is easily visible to the eye. If someone can discover the issue during a routine inspection, it is likely a patent defect. Most patent defects are an issue of aesthetics, including the following:

  • Mold due to leaking pipe
  • Blemish in drywall
  • Cracks in concrete

Latent defects

These defects, opposite of patent ones, would not be readily visible and can appear years later. There is a limited time that a homeowner can hold the construction workers liable for these types of defects. In New Jersey, the statute of repose, or time limit that the homeowner has to discover the problem as well as act, is 10 years. Homeowners who fail to act within that time cannot file a claim against you.Latent defects can include a broad range of possible defects, including:

  • Insufficient foundation causing sinking
  • Movement or damage to walls
  • Leaking roof

When are you liable?

An official will often discover patent defects before you complete the job, in which a contractor as well as the subcontractor would be liable. After this point, a subcontractor may not be liable, unless someone can prove that it was intentional negligence.As for latent defects, it is possible to be held liable within the 10-year discovery period. After the 10-year period is up, you are no longer liable for any claim that a homeowner may file against you. 

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Roseland 973-403-0100 | Hackensack 201-430-2400 | New York 212-744-9600

We also handle personal injury matters, and frequently resolve commercial and real estate disputes.

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