Building any structure involves workmanship and skill. It is impossible to complete a construction project perfectly. Perfection is not the legal standard of measurement in construction in New York. Instead, the legal standard is the ordinary and reasonable skill exercised by professionals in the construction field.
Because perfection is not possible, some construction defects are unavoidable. And because some construction defects are inevitable, they are not always actionable. When they are actionable, however, the person looking to file a complaint must investigate the issue to see who is liable for the defect.
When are construction defects actionable and who is liable?
The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) enforces the building codes and regulations of the city. Each person involved in the construction project must abide by the regulations, including the property or homeowner. A construction defect becomes actionable when it violates the codes and regulations or if it causes harm to another individual. It can be actionable through a breach of contract, negligence or professional malpractice. The party responsible for the construction defect could be the owner, the general contractor, the architect, the engineer, the subcontractor, suppliers and related professionals the owner hired.
Ultimately, an architect and engineer are liable for the design of the project and design defects. A contractor is responsible for constructing the project according to the plans. A problem can arise if a contractor performs the required work in conformity with the plans, but the plans do not comply with the DOB code. The owner may be liable if they insist on something the contractor or designer advised them against. Suppliers can also be responsible for providing inferior or defective materials to the contractor. There are so many people involved in a construction project. A person making a complaint must first determine the type of construction defect before they can blame anyone.
The general contractor is not always at fault
As a contractor, it might help to understand how another party can be liable for a construction defect if someone files a claim against you. You cannot be liable for design and material defects if you only did the job the owner hired you to do. Similarly, you cannot be accountable for inadequate installations and defective plumbing when an independent subcontractor accomplished these works.
If someone hires you for a construction project, it might help to know the other parties you are working with. You can focus on your work and let them focus on theirs so that when complaints arise, you will know who is at fault.