Construction Defects and SB 800 Disputes in Northern California
Originally passed by the California legislature in 2002, Senate Bill 800 (SB 800), sometimes called the “Right to Repair Act,” was designed to lessen the litigation burden on homebuilders and homeowners in construction defect disputes. However, the pre-litigation requirements of SB 800 are highly technical and time-sensitive, creating their own legal challenges for builders and homeowners.
At the law office of Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP, our attorneys can provide guidance and representation throughout the SB 800 process. Reach out to us today for help in navigating your SB 800 dispute or other construction defects claim.
What Is SB 800?
SB 800, codified in California Civil Code Section 895, et seq. was designed to streamline the construction defect litigation process by adding pre-litigation procedures for notice, repair, and mediation before court litigation of residential construction defect claims.
The legislation was in part a response to the California Supreme Court case, Aas v. Superior Court, in which the Court held that a homeowner cannot recover in negligence against a homebuilder for construction defects unless and until the defect results in property damage. Both consumer rights groups, seeking to give homeowners a remedy for building code violations, and California building association groups, favoring a streamlined dispute resolution process, lobbied for the legislation.
When Does SB 800 Apply?
SB 800 applies to all residential property that is sold as a single-family home or individual unit owners after January 2003. It does not apply to non-residential projects or condominium conversions. The provisions and protections of SB 800 apply both to the original purchaser and subsequent purchasers.
Building Standards Under SB 800
A critical element of SB 800 is the establishment of certain building standards. These standards are intended to address all functions and components of a residential structure and, if violated, provide the homeowner with a remedy. The building standards apply to things such as water intrusion, structural systems, plumbing problems, and a host of various types of general construction issues. While a violation of the standards does indeed give a homebuyer path to a remedy under SB 800, potential claims are not limited to a violation of the enumerated standards.
SB 800 Pre-Litigation Procedures
Under SB 800, there are certain steps that a homeowner must take should they wish to pursue a remedy for a defect, and there are prescribed ways in which the builder must respond. Some features of the law include:
- The homeowner is obligated to provide the builder with written notice of claim of the defect. The alleged defects must be described in detail.
- Following the notice of claim the builder has 14 days to both acknowledge receipt of the notice and to conduct an inspection of the defect. If a subsequent inspection is necessary following the first inspection, it must take place within 40 days. The builder must also provide documents such as maintenance records and warranties, and if certain types of violations are claimed, plans, specifications and the like, within 30 days.
- Following the final inspection, the builder has 30 days to either offer to make repairs or make a cash offer in place of repairs.
- The homeowner has the right within certain time frames to accept the builder’s offer, request the names of other contractors who could make the repairs apart from the builder/builder’s contractors, or request mediation.
- If the homeowner requests other contractors, the builder is responsible for paying for the repairs performed by the other contractors.
- If the homeowner requests mediation, then the mediation is paid for by the builder and must occur within 15 days of being requested.
- Following mediation, the homeowner must either allow the repairs to be performed or allow for another resolution—reached during mediation—to proceed. If the homeowner chooses to have the repairs performed, the builder has the responsibility of performing repairs within a prescribed time period.
Defenses Available to a Builder Under SB 800
Common statutory defenses a homebuilder may have to homeowner claims under SB 800 include:
- Failure of the homeowner to reasonably minimize damages after learning of the defect
- Failure of the homeowner to follow the builder’s or manufacturer’s instructions for use or maintenance
- Homeowner misuse or neglect
- Ordinary wear and tear
- Release from defects already obtained by the builder
- Successful repairs
- Violation of the statute of limitations
The statute of limitations on SB 800 claims varies depending on the specifics of the violation. For example, the statute of limitations for claims involving plumbing and sewer systems is four years from the close of escrow, whereas the statute of limitations for manufactured products defects, such as windows, doors, etc., is one year from the close of escrow unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer.
Choose a Lawyer with SB 800 Litigation Experience in Northern California
Navigating SB 800 claims can be complex and challenging. Numerous pitfalls exist for the unwary. If you are involved in a construction defect claim, either as a homeowner, a builder, or a third-party subcontractor or supplier, working with a lawyer with SB 800 litigation experience is essential.
At the law office of Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP, our lawyers have been representing clients in construction defects claims for years and have successfully represented clients in SB 800 claims. To learn more about your rights under SB 800 and the nuances of a residential construction defect claim, reach out to our legal team directly today at 415-399-2900. You can also reach us online or in person at your convenience. We have offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and Lafayette, California.