A statute of limitations is the amount of time that can pass before a lawsuit can no longer be filed. In California, there are two statutes of limitations for construction defect causes of action depending on the type. One applies to patent defects and the other to latent defects. Patent defects are those which are visible upon inspection, and latent ones are hidden or not immediately obvious. The statute of limitations for patent defects is four years, and it includes lawsuits related to surveying, planning, design or supervision. However, a lawsuit may still be filed if damage, injury or death took place in the fourth year, so long it is within a year of the incident and not more than five years after substantial completion. This statute of limitations does not apply to owner-occupied single-unit residences.
For latent defects, lawsuits must be filed within 10 years of substantial completion for issues with design, surveys, plans, specifications, supervision or construction observation. The start of this 10-year period begins either on the date of the final inspection, the recording of a valid notice of completion, the date of occupation or a year after work stops being done. This statute does not apply to willful concealment of flaws.
Individuals may have legal recourse for defects in either residential or commercial buildings. Residential construction flaws may not always be obvious and sometimes are only discovered when a home suffers major damage due to a minor incident as a result of a lack of structural integrity. A lawyer may be able to assist someone in determining what their legal options are based on current construction law.
Source: AIA California Council, "Statute of Limitations", October 02, 2014