Suing Your Home Construction Contractor or Builder for Construction Defects

Every state requires that the individual who makes improvements for the homeowner obtain a state issued contractor's license for work exceeding five hundred dollars. To obtain a contractor’s license in a state where work will be done, the individual must take state approved courses by the state’s administrative entity overseeing contractors. This typically is the state’s contractor’s licensing board overseeing the licensing of its contractors to protect the general public. Once the courses are taken, the individual must then take and pass a state approved examination. Once passed, the applicable state contractor’s license is issued after payment of the applicable fee.

Unlicensed Contractors

The state usually prevents an unlicensed contractor from bringing a lawsuit to collect unpaid bills from a homeowner for work and/or materials on a project. The varying state statutes are designed to protect the homeowner from unlicensed contractors. The end result is that a homeowner can receive improvements and materials from an unlicensed contractor without being legally obligated to pay for them.

Common Causes of Action

Typical causes of action a homeowner can bring against a licensed or unlicensed contractor for a work of improvement are usually controlled by the written contract, assuming there is one. In the absense of conflicting state law, the written contract controls the obligations owed to the homeowner by the licensed contractor and vice versa as to the scope of work to be performed, agreed upon materials to be installed, and whether any product installed has a manufacturer’s warranty. Different claims a homeowner can bring against the contractor depends upon work delays, defective construction, invalid mechanic’s liens, improper charges, and failure to obtain required permits, inspections, and certificates of improvement.

In general, the typical causes of action from a home construction contract against a licensed home contractor are breach of contract for the contractor's failure to honor the terms, breach of implied and express warranties of fitness, a petition to remove an invalid lien for defects with the recorded contractor's lien on the property, negligence for the contractor's work not meeting industry standards, strict liability for defective construction regardless of the contractor's reason, fraud from the contractor's misrepresentations to the homeowner, and indemnity for money the general contractor owes to his subcontractors.  In addition, if a person is injured through defective construction by the contractor or subcontractor, a homeowner can bring a personal injury cause of action for negligence or strict liability for defective construction.

Construction defect cases are complicated and require experts to prove a homeowner’s claim against the person performing the work of improvement that was improperly done. Given the need for experts at trial and the complicated nature of a construction defect case where destructive testing (opening up walls of a home for example) is required, and proving the failure of the work is not meeting industry standards or current building code or regulations, an experienced lawyer in this field is a must.