Under New Jersey law, there is both an implied warranty of habitability and an implied warranty of workmanlike construction requiring new homes to be free of serious defects. The law gives homebuyers the right to take legal action against the responsible party in the interest of remedying the defect. As a contractor, the responsibility for the defect may fall on your shoulders.
There are multiple grounds on which someone may bring a construction defect case against you. The following is a brief explanation of some of the most common complaints.
As a contractor, you owe a duty of care not only to those involved in the construction project but also the eventual purchasers of the property. This means that you must hold yourself and all whom you hire to work with you to a reasonable standard of competence. If you hire a subcontractor for the project who causes a defect through negligent behavior, you may still be liable for the subcontractor’s negligence.
However, it may not be necessary for a plaintiff to prove that you or a subcontractor were negligent. New Jersey law imposes strict liability on general contractors. Under this principle, a plaintiff can win a strict liability case against you by proving the following:
- You were involved in the construction project.
- A defect exists in the construction.
- You created or caused the defect.
- The plaintiff suffered damages as the result of the defect.
Breach of contract or warranty
Essentially, if you fail to deliver on what you promise when you agree to the construction project, the homebuyer can hold you liable when the project is complete. If the court requires you to remedy the defect due to a breach of contract or warranty, the legal term for that is a “special performance.”
A warranty may be express, meaning that it is set down in writing, or implied, meaning that a homebuyer could reasonably expect you to perform in a certain way in the given circumstances, but there is no documentation expressing it. Assuming that the homebuyer is aware of the rights that he or she may be giving up, it may be possible for you to disclaim an implied warranty.