It all begins when an inspection detects a crack in your foundation. Whether it is a residential home or commercial building, this small construction defect is about to lead to big problems. A crack in the foundation can indicate building instability, perhaps your building settled too far in one direction, or there is poor drainage away from your structure. All of these cases indicate major repairs and extensive costs, which you definitely don’t want to pay.
Luckily, construction defect laws in Tennessee cover many structural and foundation problems, such as a fracture in your foundation. Other examples include issues with the excavation of your property or design defects. When you discover a construction defect, it’s easy to assume the responsible party is going to owe you every cent of expenses and handle repairs, but just as Tennessee provides a cause of action for your construction defect claim, the state laws also levy some limitations.
Limitations on What’s Considered a Construction Defect
Under Tennessee law, the term construction defect has a specific meaning. In fact, the section of the Tennessee Code covering construction defects provides the explicit definition for all claims in the state. This provision states that a construction defect is, “a deficiency, or deficiency arising out of, the design, specifications, surveying, planning, supervision, observation of construction, or construction or remodeling.” Any issues with your building or structure that don’t start with these particular aspects of design and construction are automatically barred from a construction defect claim in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Code goes on to specify the exact negligent, reckless, or intentional actions that can lead to a construction defect. These causes include the use of defective material, violation of a Tennessee law or local building code, use of a design that doesn’t meet industry standards, or “failure to remodel a building in accordance with accepted trade standards.” When you construction defect does appear to meet these description and definition limitation, you should contact a Tennessee lawyer.
Limitations on Who Can File a Construction Defect Claim
Another limitation on construction defects in Tennessee is who is eligible to file the claim. While a Tennessee lawyer with experience in construction defects certainly wants to represent every party suffering losses from a building defect or design flaw, Tennessee law limits lawsuits to “claimants.”
Not only is the term claimant part of the legal diction in Tennessee, in construction defect cases it has a specific meaning. A claimant, according to the Tennessee Code is an owner, subsequent purchaser, tenant or association, such as a homeowner’s association or condominium association. By providing this explicit definition of “claimant,” Tennessee is limiting the plaintiffs in a construction defect case to those individuals with a vested interest in utilizing and living on the applicable property.
Limitations on Time to File a Construction Defect Case
One of the most confusing limitations under Tennessee law is the acceptable duration for filing a construction defect case. In other civil lawsuits, the timeframe for filing a claim is called the statute of limitations. In a Tennessee construction defect case, the allowed duration for a case is called the statute of repose. These legal terms have slightly different meaning. A statute of limitations marks the timeframe for a case after the cause of action accrues, while a statute of repose restricts a claim after specified events have occurred.
The statute of repose for construction defect cases limits a plaintiff to four years to file. The event that triggers the statute of repose is the substantial completion of the construction or improvement. That means substantial completion of new construction, remodel, or renovation of a building.
At the crux of the time limitation in Tennessee is the definition of substantial completion. With meaning for legal and construction professionals, substantial completion marks timelines and milestones for construction deadlines, filing dates, and of course, construction defect claims. Broadly, substantial completion is the date on which a property can be used for its intended and agreed purpose. For example, the date a residential property can be occupied.
However, substantial completion has some complexities, including the option for parties to determine the meaning through contractual provisions. The best way to understand the date of substantial completion in your case is through discussion and advice of your Tennessee lawyer.
Limitations on Filing a Claim
Deciding to pursue a construction defect claim is a time-consuming endeavor. You want the result to pay off emotionally and financially, but you limit your strategies, understanding, and options for a construction defect claim by tackling the issue alone. An experienced Tennessee lawyer can help.
To discuss your construction defect with a knowledgeable attorney, contact our team at Surber, Asher, Surber & Moushon, PLLC.