In Help! My New House Is Falling Down, architect Peter Lattey writes that uncovering construction defects requires an expert to discover the cause of damage.
Next comes the slightly tricky part. As a good lawyer, you need to have a construction defect expert that you can call on to help assess the issues of the case. This needs to be an expert who understands the two main areas of dispute in construction defect cases; construction contracts and the technical aspects of construction. The design and construction contracts define who is responsible for all aspects of the project, who approves the work, who pays for what and so forth. There are standard contracts available but these are not always used, and when they are used they are often not adhered to. This is especially true in small projects such as single family homes but can also be true of large commercial projects.
Construction today is a complex business. Even a single family home can have 20 or 30 trades installing different systems. When the systems are installed incorrectly they can interact in unexpected ways to create problems. Then the problems will need to be sorted out. This is no game for an amateur.
But here is the conundrum for you. If you take the case you will need an expert but you don’t want to hire them until you have the case. Should this a problem for you? Not really. Call up your friendly building defect expert and ask him to take a walk around the site with you and the owner. An hour or two at the home should be enough to have a very good idea of what the issues are. This will also be a good opportunity to pick up those missing contracts, plans and other documents. If you decide to take the case, the expert can bill their time. If not, he can chalk it up to marketing as you do. If you and the expert have a relationship of trust, then he shouldn’t have a problem attending the initial site visit. If he doesn’t trust you enough to attend the site visit, then that is another issue that needs to be addressed in a different discussion.
Lattey, principal of Peter Lattey, Archtects, has served as an expert witness regarding construction defects, fire & explosion, building products defects, construction costs and construction scheduling.
More information: www.peterlattey.com