What is a Construction Defect?

Part of the American dream is owning a home. It is often the largest purchase a person or family will make in their lives. However, such an important purchase can also come with a set of problems that no family should have to face. What happens when a home’s foundation moves or settles? What do cracks in concrete or drywall mean? What about uneven floors/windows/walls, water intrusions, sewage backups, etc.?

Johnson Law specializes in helping homeowners reach solutions when they encounter construction defects. But what exactly is a construction defect?

Colorado law does not define the term “defect”, but construction defects generally occur when a construction professional’s work falls below the standard of care. The standard of care is established through industry standards, manufacturer specifications, and building codes. These standards are in place to protect public health and safety by regulating and controlling buildings, structures, and equipment, including, but not limited to, foundations, stucco, heating and cooling systems, plumbing and drainage, signage, elevators and escalators, electrical systems, framing, siding, roofing, painting, and interior finishes.

The standard of care sets a minimum level of quality for construction professionals to use the products and materials as intended, fully incorporate the individual products and materials into the larger project, and achieve the desired outcome anticipated by the project documents. Defects can occur when inappropriate and/or defective products are used, products and materials are improperly installed, or design and engineering plans are not followed. Experts specialized in establishing the standard of care and determining whether the standard of care was met are important in construction defect cases.

What this means for a homeowner is that a defect can vary significantly and is unique to each case. For example, a homeowner may discover the physical manifestations of a defect if they see cracked drywall or concrete, have difficulty opening and closing doors, notice out-of-plumb walls, have broken pipes, observe discoloration of stucco, discover mold on walls, experience deteriorating building materials, encounter dysfunctional household systems and appliances etc.

Colorado law does not require a homeowner to know what the cause of the construction defect is at the time it is observed, but a homeowner’s claim arises when the homeowner discovers some physical manifestation of a construction defect. In other words, if you see a crack or some problem that could be a defect, the clock could begin ticking on when you can bring a timely claim against your builder or other construction professional.

If you have questions regarding potential defects at your home, please contact Johnson Law to speak with an attorney and hear more about potential solutions today.

-Tessa DeVault

Johnson Law is handling Weyerhaeuser Joist Formaldehyde Claims and Cases

Johnson Law has been recently contacted from dozens of Colorado homeowners to investigate claims against Weyerhaeuser and other potentially liable parties for the installation of Weyerhaeuser’s fire protection coating product, Flak Jacket®, to floor joists.

The Flak Jacket® coating was applied to floor joists installed in many new homes in Colorado and is causing risk of formaldehyde poisoning to the occupants. Occupants with the affected product in their home have been advised to move out as soon as possible to avoid exposure and seek medical attention if their symptoms persist.

Unfortunately, despite several large national homebuilders knowing about the issue for weeks, not all homeowners were told immediately, and the builders have done very little to assist displaced homeowners. Many homeowners were advised by their builder to move out immediately, but have been given no assurances their home will receive proper repairs, or that the affected homeowners will receive fair compensation for their hotel stays, medical bills, loss of home value, and everything else they are entitled to under Colorado law.

Johnson Law is working with homeowners all over Colorado to assist them with getting temporary housing and reaching fair resolutions with Weyerhaeuser and other potentially liable parties. There is a possibility this becomes a class-action case.

If you would like to find out more information about retaining a construction defect attorney to assist with Weyerhaeuser floor joist claims, please send us an email at hello@chadjohnsonlaw.com (for fastest response) or give us a call at 303.586.4829. Johnson Law represents homeowners all across Colorado in construction defect cases with flexible fee agreements, including contingency fees.

House Bill 1279 – New Requirements for Colorado Homeowners’ Associations Making Construction Defect Claims

On May 27, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 1279 into law which changes the way Colorado homeowners’ associations may bring construction defect claims. The new Colorado law requires homeowners’ associations to send notice, hold a meeting, and conduct a voting period by the owners before bringing construction defect claims.

First, the notice must contain, among other things, a description of the alleged defects and a good-faith estimate of the benefits and risks involved. The new law establishes very specific and detailed notice requirements that include disclosure of attorney fees and costs, impacts on an individual owner’s property during the process, and the benefits and/or consequences of filing or not filing construction defect claims. Notably, the notice must also be sent to the construction professionals who performed the defective construction.

Second, Colorado homeowners’ associations must now hold an owner meeting between ten and fifteen days after the notice was mailed. The construction professionals must be invited to attend this owner meeting and have an opportunity to address the owners regarding the alleged construction defects. The construction professional may, but is not required, to provide an offer to remedy the alleged construction defects at the meeting.

Third, the owner voting period requires Colorado homeowners’ associations to maintain detailed owners’ lists and track owners’ votes. Homeowners’ associations may bring construction defect actions against construction professionals only after complying with the notice, meeting, and voting requirements established in the new law and upon authorization by a majority of favorable votes by the owners.

This new law goes into effect on September 1, 2017 and the full implications of these additional requirements for homeowners’ associations remain unknown. The law contains tight timelines and harsh consequences if the law’s requirements are not met. Questions remain regarding how this new law’s meeting requirement will interact with the notice of claim process required under Colorado’s construction defect laws. Finally, the new law establishes specific details on who and how owner votes are counted, how to amend claims, and exceptions to when homeowners’ associations can bring construction defect claims against a construction professional without an owner vote.

Contact Johnson Law today to discuss how this new law may impact your community and to ensure your homeowners’ association is complying with the law’s heightened requirements before filing claims for construction defects.

-Tessa R. DeVault

Johnson Law is looking for a great Paralegal/Office Manager to add to our team

Litigation Paralegal/Office Manager

We are a boutique law office focusing on construction defect law seeking a full-time paralegal/office manager for our uptown Denver office.

We might be a good fit if you are someone who:

  • Is energetic and a self-starter, has great organization skills and superior customer service
  • Is comfortable working independently, but also in a team
  • Has time management skills to organize, multi-task, prioritize assignments and complete tasks under pressure due to workload volume and changing demands
  • Has great attention to detail
  • Likes being involved in the details of each case.

Responsibilities include:

  • Collecting, organizing, and reviewing of documents
  • Drafting court filings under attorney supervision, such as routine motions and proposed orders, disclosures, subpoenas, notices, case management orders, and pretrial orders
  • Assisting with preparation and filing of court filings
  • Maintaining and updating a docket of all pleading deadlines and court obligations for counsel on all cases
  • Reviewing all applicable rules and practice standards to ensure compliance
  • Ensuring all deadlines are calendared and met
  • Proofreading and checking of final court filings and other correspondence
  • Assisting with preparation for depositions and trials
  • Coordinating the scheduling of court dates, depositions, mediation, and other client meetings
  • Conducting initial client intakes via phone
  • Orderings office supplies and various other administrative tasks

Requirements:

  • Strong administrative skills and attention to detail a must
  • Law firm and prior litigation experience is preferred but not required
  • At least one year of customer service office experience is required
  • Paralegal certificate and/or a bachelor’s degree is preferred but not required
  • Our office strives to be paperless, uses Mac OS, Clio, and other cloud technology, so familiarity with technology is crucial

What we offer:

  • A flexible work schedule
  • A health care benefits plan
  • A retirement plan with matching contributions
  • A comfortable, collaborative, and friendly work environment
  • A salary commensurate with your experience

We are committed to giving every client outstanding customer service, exceeding their expectations by being helpful, friendly, and having a positive attitude. If you share our commitment then we want to hear from you. Qualified candidates should respond with their resume and cover letter with salary requirements to apply@chadjohnsonlaw.com.

Colorado Court of Appeals holds that statute of repose and limitation does not begin to run until a contractor finishes repair efforts

In Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. v. Bradbury, ___ P. 3d ___, 2016 WL 4699116 (2016), Sierra Pacific had settled with the homeowners’ association and the general contractor with regard to water intrusion at a condominium building. Sierra Pacific then brought suit against its subcontractor Jason Bradbury.

Bradbury moved for summary judgment arguing that the six-year statute of repose had expired – therefore the claims were too late. The undisputed facts relevant to the motion were:

• On June 11, 2004, the City and County of Denver issued a certificate of occupancy for all units.
• At the HOA’s direction, the general contractor and Sierra Pacific attended to the reported leaks and water damage between 2004 and 2011, including two substantial retrofit repairs in January 2005 and March 2011;
• Bradbury participated in some repair efforts in 2004, but none thereafter.

Applying those facts to the statute of repose, the Sierra Pacific court ultimately held that Sierra Pacific’s claims were barred by the statute of repose.

The court recognized that statute of repose commences upon “substantial completion of the improvement to the real property.” However, the court explained that “substantial completion of the improvement to the real property” is not necessarily the date of a certificate of occupancy, but instead the court concluded “that a subcontractor has substantially completed its role in the improvement at issue when it finishes working on the improvement.”

Applying the court’s interpretation of the statute of repose, the court ultimately concluded that because Bradbury finished its repair work on the windows and doors in 2004, the the statute of repose commenced, at the latest, in 2004.

This decision makes sense in the context of the law and social policy. It allows homeowners to hold off of suing contractors if the contractor is still willing to make reasonable repairs. That is obviously beneficial to homeowners and contractors, who will be involved in fewer lawsuits in situations where good contractors are willing to make reasonable repairs to their work.

Under Sierra Pacific, Homeowners, HOAs, and other property owners are now clearly afforded their full statute of limitations and repose to determine if a contractor’s’ repairs are successful before taking next steps.

Douglas County District Court Rejects Builder’s Argument That Economic Loss Rule Applies to Original Homeowners

In light of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “subsequent homeowner” analysis in S K Peightal v. Mid Valley, 342 P.3d 868 (Colo. 2015), questions remain as to how courts will interpret the term in deciding whether or not the independent tort duty to act non-negligently in the construction of a home is barred by the economic loss rule. Construction litigators must now define who is and who is not a “subsequent homeowner” in bringing and defending negligence claims for construction defects.

In S K Peightal, the court refused to extend the judicially recognized independent tort duty to act non-negligently in the construction of home to a third-party beneficiary of a commercial entity whose claims rested purely on economic damages under a negligence theory. Id. at 870-71. The “subsequent homeowner” analysis hinged on “whether a party who stands in the shoes of one of the parties to a Construction Loan Contract that financed the construction of the home in question can properly be considered a subsequent homeowner of the property.” Id. at 876. The court held the third-party beneficiary was not a “subsequent homeowner” and within the class of plaintiffs to whom the duty was owed because the third-party beneficiary was able to and did negotiate the construction contracts outlining the duties and liabilities during construction of the home. Id. at 876-77.

Despite the fact the court responded narrowly to the specific and unique facts of S K Peightal, construction professionals have started to argue an original purchaser’s negligence claims should be barred by the economic loss rule. Construction professionals have argued an original homeowner is analogous to the third-party beneficiary in S K Peightal because original purchasers are at “arm’s length” in negotiating construction contracts during construction of the home.

This argument falls short because it makes the assumption original purchasers of newly constructed homes are involved in negotiating the duties and liabilities in the contracts for construction of the home. Quite the contrary; homeowners are rarely involved in the negotiating the means and methods involved in constructing a new home. Homeowners rely on the builder’s expertise, which is why the court has judicially recognized a construction professional’s independent duty to act non-negligently in the construction of homes.

Vision Homes recently argued this in a case where Johnson Law and co-counsel represented eleven homeowners against it in Castle Rock Colorado. Douglas County District Court Judge Shaw Whitaker did not reach defendants’ “subsequent purchaser” arguments. Instead, Judge Whitaker relied on Colorado precedent in Town of Alma v. AZCO Constr. Inc., 10 P.3d 1256, 1259 (Colo. 2000) and held the economic loss rule did not apply because plaintiffs alleged more than purely economic loss. In citing to Hildebrand v. New Vista Homes II, LLC, 252 P.3d 1159, 1172 (Colo. App. 2010), Judge Whitaker held the “Construction Defect Action Reform Act allows claims for personal and bodily injury including noneconomic loss or injury such as pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, and impairment to the quality of life.” James Coates, et al. v. Vision Development Group, Inc., et al., No. 14 CV 30372 (Douglas County Dist. Ct. February 16, 2016). Therefore, Judge Whitaker denied the builder defendants argument the economic loss rule barred the homeowner plaintiffs’ negligence claims because plaintiffs plead non-economic damages and a jury could award such damages.

Construction professionals will likely attempt to use the dicta from S K Peightal as an opportunity to chip away consumer rights. Judge Whitaker’s ruling is correct, but the District Court’s ruling could be narrowly read to only protect individual homeowner purchasers, and not HOAs or other corporate entities that hold title to homes because such entities cannot suffer non-economic losses. Further clarification of S K Peightal is still required, including how the Homeowner Protection Act of 2007 would trump any application of the common law economic loss rule.

This issue is of greatest importance in Colorado’s booming housing market where rapid growth of new developments leads to high numbers of original purchasers contracting with builders for newly constructed homes. There is no good reason (legal, policy, or otherwise) that Courts should exclude original homeowners from the ability to hold builders liable for their negligence.

If you have any questions about the S K Peightal decision, or the Douglas County District Court ruling interpreting it, please contact construction defect lawyer Chad Johnson at Chad@chadjohnsonlaw.com or 303.586.4829.

City of Denver adds new electrical building codes – including mandatory electric car charging stations

On Monday March 7th, the city of Denver voted unanimously to adopt supplemental building codes to require builders of new homes to include rough electrical work for an electrical car charging station in garages.  This change puts Denver at the forefront of the sustainable building codes and on par with Boulder and several California cities. Building codes often prescribe the minimum standard for builders to meet in Colorado. Cost estimates for this minor change in the building code range from negligible to $300 per home depending on the garage location. Although homebuilders fought this amendment, it passed 12-0. The new building code will take effect in six months and will not affect plans and work already in progress.

https://www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/696/documents/BuildingCode/2015_public_amendment_proposal_IRC_SectionR324_2_ElectricVehicleChargingOptions.pdf

Denver passes condominium construction defect reform

On November 23, 2015, the Denver city counsel passed an ordinance on condominium construction defects. Under the ordinance, a project cannot be called defective in a civil action if it was built and maintained in conformance with the building code, and building codes violations can only be cited in a lawsuit only if they can be linked to damage or injury.

While the apartment boom bloomed, the condo construction has lagged over the past decade. Officials are hopeful that this new ordinance will tackle the accessible and affordable housing challenge in Denver and help to jump-start more condo construction. Some individual condo owners opposed the new ordinance. The owners are understandably afraid that it will burden homeowners with correcting mistakes made during construction.

The ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1.

Denver is not the first municipality that passed a construction defect reform. While Lakewood was the first to pass such legislature, Lone Tree, Aurora, Littleton, Parker and Commerce City soon followed. And it does not stop with Denver. Only one day after Denver passed the defect ordinance, Colorado Springs’ city counsel unanimously approved a construction defect ordinance on first read.

The legality of municipalities passing ordinances that conflict with current state law on construction defects will be a major hurdle in actually enforcing these ordinances.

Sources:

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_29157220/denver-council-votes-12-1-favor-condo-defects

http://www.coloradoindependent.com/156338/denver-tries-to-spur-condo-construction-by-limiting-homeowners-right-to-sue

http://gazette.com/colorado-springs-city-council-votes-unanimously-on-construction-defects-ordinance/article/1564272

Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes

 

The New York Times recently reported on real estate companies that hide behind shell companies to commit fraud against owners of their homes. The article reveals how various homeowners were told unsatisfied promises that resulted in the homeowners losing their homes. In one case, the real estate company promised to refinance two Brooklyn homeowners’ back mortgage payments but the refinancing never occurred and the homeowners realized that they just signed their home over for free. In another case, a woman was left essentially homeless, residing in an illegally converted garage with no heat.

Once the fraud materializes, it is often a challenge to find these real estate companies because they hide behind shell LLC. Even in cases where homeowners do not sign over their property, scammers have reverted to simply forging signatures on deeds.

This is a reminder that you should be represented by either a real estate agent or a real estate attorney in any transaction that involves your home or other real estate holdings. The language and documentation used in transferring real estate is not always so clear. Be 100% sure you understand it, otherwise, you may be literally giving your home away to unscrupulous companies.

Source:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/nyregion/real-estate-shell-companies-scheme-to-defraud-owners-out-of-their-homes.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=1