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California Contractor Warranty Form

UPDATED: July 21, 2020

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The least you should know...

  • States and the federal government provide warranties for the work of contractors.
  • In California, contractors are required to provide warranties on work done for home and business owners for between one and 10 years.
  • The warranties California law provides are a minimum, and longer warranties can be agreed to between the parties.
  • Even if a warranty is shorter than that provided by law, the contractor is bound by the state warranty.

Whether you're having a home built or just having some minor improvements or repairs performed, you may need to hire a contractor. If you do, you'll want to be sure that you're hiring an experienced and qualified professional. Hopefully, the work will go smoothly and the cost will be minimal, and nothing will ever go wrong.

If you find that something was done improperly or there's some other problem with the work that was done months or years later, though, you may feel better knowing you have a California contractor's warranty, in the form of one prepared by your contractor or one implied by law.

In many cases, especially when working with a fully licensed and bonded contractor, the contract will spell out your rights. Even if you find yourself having a problem that doesn't seem to be covered, though, you may still be protected by state law.

In this article, we'll explain what kinds of protections there are in contract warranties and look specifically at the protections in place in California. We'll also go over what a typical contractor warranty form looks like and how long a contractor has to warranty work under California law regardless of what the contract says.

Contractor Warranties

A contractor may be hired to do a variety of different jobs on a home, from a complete remodel to a cosmetic update. Once hired, the property owner is dependent on the contractor's knowledge, skill, and expertise in complying with all local building codes and in providing a quality finished product.

What is a contractor's warranty?

Because the owner of a home or business has to depend on the quality of the contractor's work and their compliance with building codes, most owners ought to seek a guarantee. These guarantees are contractors' warranties.

If a contractor fails to deliver what's promised, there may be a cause of action for breach of contract.

If the work that was delivered is only later discovered to be inadequate, it is not a breach of contract but a breach of warranty.

A homeowner's right to such a warranty is determined both by state law and by whether the contractor has included a warranty in the construction or remodeling contract.

It is also important to note that most written and implied warranties do not hold the contractor responsible for defects in materials and products that provide their own warranty. For example, if a refrigerator you purchase has a one-year warranty and there is a defect in the unit, as opposed to installation, the refrigerator manufacturer is responsible for the cost of repair and/or replacement and not the contractor.

How are contractor warranties different in different states?

Each state has its own laws dealing with dispute resolution between property owners and the people they hire to design, build, and improve the property. Claims between these parties can take on a variety of forms, including breach of contract, breach of warranty, or tort claims.

Every state has different laws about statutes of limitations concerning these disputes as well. Most states have two different statutes governing when a claim for a construction defect must be filed: a statute of limitations and a statute of repose.

The statute of repose is the length of time from the completion of work that a claim can be made. The statute of limitations is the length of time from the discovery of the defect in which a claim must be made.

So if the statute of repose was 10 years and the statute of limitations was five years, even if the defect wasn't discovered until nine years after the work was done, the owner would only have one year to file a claim to comply with the statute of repose, even though the statute of limitations would normally grant them five years to do so.

So what is the statute of limitations on construction defects in California? Read on to find out.

For a contractor to breach a warranty, there must first be a contractor's warranty. In most states, there are several different types of warranties in place for contractors' work.

  • An implied warranty is one that is created by the nature of the transaction, often including state laws and consumer protections.
  • An express warranty is granted by the contractor specifically and expressly for the work performed. When a warranty is included in the contractor's agreement, that is an express warranty.
  • In addition, federal laws like the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act offer protection to property owners against the use of defective building materials and goods, among other concerns. Magnuson-Moss, however, is limited to "tangible personal property" and does not encompass real property like your home.

There is a commonly held notion that most industry-standard contracts only grant a one-year warranty. This is based on general contractor one-year warranty templates provided by national organizations, but the warranty granted is not so limited. What the contracts provide is a one-year term for the work to be corrected by the contractor who performed it.

After that time, the contractor can still be liable for the cost of correction for much longer, though the actual amount of time varies from state to state.

California Construction Warranty Law

The difference between the states in their treatment of contractor warranties is in the details. All states are covered by federal laws concerning warranties, all states allow for express warranties between contractors and those that hire them, and all states have laws that create implied warranties. Some state laws also create or require express warranties.

The laws that each state passes to create these warranties vary. Since these laws are a form of consumer protection, it may come as no surprise that California has stronger rules for contractors to abide by than many other states.

How long does a contractor have to warranty his work in California?

California's construction warranty laws are found in Title Seven of the California Code: Requirements for Actions for Construction Defects.

This is a one-year implied warranty for both new construction and remodeling projects. The property owner who wishes to take advantage of this warranty must file a complaint within one year.

The owner must first notify the contractor or whoever is responsible for the construction defect in writing of any defects under California Civil Code section 917, then file a legal complaint if the contractor fails to act to make repairs within a reasonable time. Generally, the complaint will be heard in small-claims court, and the owner will be responsible for the associated court costs.

Alternatively, the owner may make a complaint with the Contractor's State License Board (CSLB), who can help to investigate and resolve the complaint. If the owner chooses to file with the state licensing board, the time limit is the same as the statute of limitations to file in court.

What is the express contractor's warranty in California?

California Civil Code section 900 warranties require contractors to provide an express written warranty of at least one year as to the fit and finish of floors, walls, and various fixtures. If a general contractor's one year warranty is not provided, the law will create a one-year implied warranty.

California law also states that the licensed contractor must provide a warranty guaranteeing that items installed under the contractor's license are free from defective installation. The installation must comply with both local building codes and manufacturer installation requirements.

If a product is damaged due to defective installation, the contractor may be held liable for the cost of repairs and damages.

How long is a general contractor liable?

This warranty extends for four years after the completion of a job.

What additional warranties are required under California law?

Finally, under California law, both the contractor and engineer who signs off on a project must provide a 10-year structural warranty, which includes latent defects such as unstable building sites, foundation integrity, and roofing work.

How long are California Warranties?

California law creates a lot of warranties that contractors must abide by, many that last for different lengths of time. Here is a non-exhaustive list of warranties concerning new construction in California.

One-Year Warranties:

  • The length of the warranty for "fit and finish" of flooring, walls, countertops, cabinets, paint, and trim is one year, as established in the California Civil Code section 900.
  • The length of the warranty for products manufactured offsite, including appliances such as refrigerators and HVAC units, is also one year, as established in California Civil Code section 896(g)(3).
  • The length of time contractors must warrant that construction will comply with building codes concerning noise transmission is one year, as established in California Civil Code section 896(g)(6).
  • Contractors must also warrant the irrigation, drainage, and landscaping systems for one year, as established in California Civil Code sections 896(g)(7) and (g)(12).

Two-Year Warranties:

  • Wood posts have a two-year warranty for "unreasonable decay" caused by contact with soil, per California Civil Code section 896(g)(8).
  • There's a two-year warranty on dryer ducts as established in California Civil Code section 896(g)(14).

Four-Year Warranties:

  • California Civil Code section 896(e) provides a four-year warranty on plumbing and sewer systems.
  • California Civil Code section 896(f) provides a four-year warranty on electrical systems.
  • There's also a four-year warranty on exterior pathways, driveways, hardscape, sidewalls, sidewalks, and patios per California Civil Code section 896(g)(1).
  • California Civil Code section 896(g)(9) provides a four-year warranty on untreated steel fences and adjacent components.

Longer Warranties:

  • Paint and stains causing deterioration of building surfaces are under a five-year warranty per California Civil Code section 896(g)(10).
  • California Civil Code sections 896 and 941 provide a 10-year warranty for all other components of new construction not referenced in other warranties. This includes retaining walls, support beams, foundations, and other components.

California Contractor Warranty Form

There are no requirements for a contractor's warranties to be documented in a specific way. As long as the warranties are written and signed by both parties, they will be bound by them.

It's also important to bear in mind that California law will grant all of the above warranties whether or not you and your contractor write them down. While it's a good idea to include all warranties required by law in a contract, you will be protected by the implied warranties California grants without having them in writing.

If, however, you want a different warranty than those provided in law, it must be written and signed by both parties. If you agree to warranties that are less than those guaranteed by law, the law will override to grant the minimum protection no matter what the contract says.

You can use the standard form provided by the Associated General Contractors of California, the Contractor State Licensing Board's Guide to Home Improvement Contracts, or the information from National Lien Law for guidance. Ultimately, you should consult a construction law attorney to draw up the agreement between yourself and a contractor rather than relying on examples or standard forms.

Bringing It All Together

California contractors fall under federal and state laws governing the warranties they must provide. In California, the civil code requires express warranties and will create implied warranties if the contractor does not provide the written warranties included in the California Code.

You can see the licensing and warranties the California Contractor's State Licensing Board requires or recommends by taking a look at their guide.

While state laws and implied warranties may provide some measure of protection, you should always negotiate a written warranty with your contractor for work performed. This warranty can be part of your construction contract and negotiated along with the other terms of your agreement. The warranty will then be enforced under contract and warranty laws in the state where you live.

To determine what the specific contractor warranty requirements are in your state, it's always best to consult a qualified construction law attorney in your jurisdiction. To get recommendations for attorneys near you or to find answers to other legal questions, you can follow this link.

And if you need to find a construction law attorney now, begin your search by entering your ZIP code in our search tool below.

References:

  1. https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/statutes/magnuson-moss-warranty-federal-trade-commission-improvements-act
  2. http://www.search-california-law.com/research/titletoc/ca/CIV/index.html
  3. https://www.cslb.ca.gov/
  4. http://www.search-california-law.com/research/ca/CIV/900./Cal-Civil-Code-Section-900/text.html
  5. http://www.agc-ca.org/content.aspx?id=1638
  6. https://www.nationallienlaw.com/construction-warranty-forms/

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