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When are owners liable for construction defects?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2023 | Construction Litigation |

Construction projects can sometimes be a puzzle of responsibilities. While most attention goes to contractors and designers, we should not forget that owners also have a role to play in ensuring things go smoothly. Owners should not be quick to assume that they are exempt from liability.

Transparent and accurate information matters

Owners aren’t just bystanders in construction projects. They hold key information with regard to logistics and development. Giving wrong or incomplete details about the project can lead to costly disruptions and setbacks.

For example, let us say an owner fails to disclose essential details about the project site, such as underground utilities or soil composition. In the absence of this critical information, construction teams may fail to account for the unexpected challenges that may arise. This lack of transparency can lead to delays and budget overruns. It may even compromise the safety of everyone involved in the project.

Beyond intended use

Every completed structure in a construction project has an intended purpose. However, owners may sometimes deviate from this and use the structure in ways they did not initially design it for.

For instance, an owner may repurpose a building meant for residential use into a retail store without appropriate modifications. If the existing foundation, walls and roofing might not be enough to handle the increased foot traffic and heavier equipment. This can lead to structural issues such as foundation settling or walls cracking, or even collapse in extreme cases.

Owner accountability over time

Owners have an ongoing responsibility to ensure proper maintenance and upkeep of their buildings. If they fail to care for their property the right way, the structure may gradually weaken and lead to failures over time.

Besides, liability in construction defects usually has a statute of limitations and repose. If the owner fails to report any issues with the construction within that set limit, the developer or designers may no longer be liable for the defects.

By understanding the various scenarios where owner liability comes into play, individuals investing in construction projects can ensure that their actions contribute positively to the longevity and safety of the structures they own.