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You may be able to obtain compensation for construction defects like foundation cracks and leaking roofs.

If you purchased a property and later discovered problems like cracks in the foundation or a leaking roof you probably experienced a sinking feeling that you could be in trouble. How serious is the problem? Is the damage going to get worse? Who is responsible for paying for the repairs? This article will provide a brief overview of some of the more common construction defects as well as discuss who is responsible for the cost of damages and repairs.

Types of construction defects

Some of the most common construction defects in both residential and commercial properties relate to foundations and roofs. Sometimes the defects may be obvious with visible cracks in the foundation or a leaking roof, but others may go unnoticed for long periods of time until significant damage occurs.

Foundation and slab cracks

Cracks in the foundations or slabs (the thick concrete under the floor) are a common problem throughout California. These may indicate a serious issue related to the structural integrity of the home or building.

Frequently, unstable soil may cause building movement which in turn results in cracking. Native soil in southern California soil is expansive, meaning it swells with water (for example clay soil). When the soil is saturated from large amounts of water (due to rainfall or the watering of landscaping), the soil can expand to the degree that it actually shifts the structure.

Another potential cause of structure movement is the use of both native soil and fill soil (soil used to create a flat surface) as the building pad. The fill soil may settle but the native soil remains in place, ultimately resulting in cracks in the slab and foundation.

Roofing defects

Roofing defects may be caused by improper installation or defective materials. Aside from obvious leaks, symptoms of roofing problems include backed up gutters, missing or cracked shingles and cracked paint on the inside ceiling.

Responsibility for damages and repair

Foundation cracks or leaking roofs may indicate serious builder negligence. Sellers also have a responsibility to disclose known defects to buyers. If a buyer can prove that a seller knew or should have known about a construction defect at the time of sale there is a good chance the seller will have to pay damages or reverse the sales contract.

There are different statues of limitations for filing construction defect claims depending on whether a defect is considered patent or latent. A patent defect is readily discoverable by a reasonable inspection whereas a latent defect is hidden. There are also differences depending on whether there was willful misconduct or fraudulent concealment.

Consult an attorney

It is not always clear who is liable for costs stemming from a construction defect and when a claim needs to be filed. An experienced attorney can provide more information about who is legally responsible for repairs and damages based on the specific circumstances. San Diego attorney Bryan Snyder has focused his practice on construction law. If you are dealing with a construction defect he can provide advice tailored to your unique situation and advocate on your behalf.