How to deal legally with remodeling or construction defects
With historic low housing inventory and many new people moving to Arizona, many consumers are looking at buying the first reasonable house available or exploring remodel options of their existing homes.
Both can be daunting tasks considering many are not familiar with Arizona workmanship standards or Arizona laws concerning construction defects. On top of that, many sought-after contractors are busy and can’t take on new projects. As a result, many move forward with the “first-available” contractor, placing themselves at potential risk. As a result, it’s imperative Arizona consumers learn their rights and “spot” when a contractor may fail to meet Arizona’s workmanship standards.
Here are some relevant things to consider when dealing with contractors and locating construction defects if or when they arise.
What is the Arizona Registrar of Contractors?
First, it is important to know the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (the “AROC”) is the Arizona State licensing board for all contractors in Arizona and enforces the workmanship standards for residential construction projects. If you have an issue with a contractor’s work or are experiencing construction issues (ie. a material deficiency in the design, construction, alteration, landscaping or remodeling of a dwelling) on a new build or remodel, you may wish to file a claim with the AROC – but you must do so within two years of the completion of the construction work, occupancy, or close of escrow on a new build – whichever event occurs earliest. If you are considering a remodel or construction project for the first time and do not have a trusted contractor for the work, the AROC also maintains a contractor search tool on its website to make sure you are working with a licensed contractor with a history of solid work. All in all, the AROC provides many Arizona consumers with their first induction into how to remedy a construction project gone bad.
Most claims made by aggrieved homeowners involve what is known as a “violation of the workmanlike standards”. But what does this mean? Well, first, all residential construction work in Arizona includes an implied warranty that the licensed contractors work meet workmanlike standards. This means the work shall “be done in a workmanlike manner” and must meet these standards even if the contract did not explicitly detail all of the standards. Again, the AROC is a great reference point as it lists these minimum standards of care. In addition, the Arizona Revised Standards (notably A.R.S. §32-1154) impose requirements that the licensed contractor comply with all plans, specifications and applicable building codes. A contractor’s failure to abide by all of these standards may result in liability.
Keep in mind, whether or not a contractor’s work is performed in a “workmanlike manner” can be ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation concerning each trade. That is why it is vital to review the contract, plans, specifications and applicable standards with an experienced Arizona construction attorney familiar with such issues.
Contracts for Construction Work in Arizona
At times, unscrupulous Contractors may look to limit the warranties (one to two years) for their work and ask an homeowner to waive such warranties. Luckily, the implied warranty of workmanlike performance cannot be waived and Arizona law provides timelines by which an aggrieved homeowner can bring claims on the contractor’s breach of contract (6 years from discovery of the breach), workmanlike performance (2 years as discussed above) and construction defects (8 years from completion, unless the defect is discovered in the 9th year). It is important to understand your construction contract and be familiar with these timelines so you do not bring a claim past the deadline to do so. As a result, be vigilant in identifying and dealing with any apparent construction issues in your home. The lesson: do not wait as your rights may be extinguished if you do.
Contractor Right to Cure Construction Defects – A.R.S. §12-1363
Arizona law allows an aggrieved homeowner to seek recovery from a contractor for its deficient work and resulting construction defects. However, before filing a complaint in Superior Court, Arizona law provides a rather strict “Purchaser Dwelling Act” (A.R.S. §12-1363 et. seq.) which lays out the several steps for allowing the contractor an opportunity to fix its wrongdoing. For instance, the Purchaser Dwelling Act requires a homeowner provide a contractor notification of any construction defects and a reasonable opportunity to cure the issues. Only after the “back and forth” process is satisfied can a homeowner bring a claim before the Courts. Failure to strictly follow the statutory scheme will most likely result in an unsatisfied homeowner twice-over as they will be left with a defective home and no avenue for recovery against the contractor. Again, once you learn of a construction issue in your home, it is imperative to consult with an experienced construction attorney who can guide you through the complicated statutory process.
Arizona Attorney for Construction Defects and Contractor Issues
We hope this brief article has made clear the avenues for identifying potential issues involving construction projects in Arizona and the need to educate yourself on a contractor’s workmanship standards and how to bring potential claims. Moreover, it is vital one understands the timeline and specific process as outlined by Arizona statutes to bring claims against Arizona licensed contractors for deficient work. Feel free to contact the author for a consultation and explanation of your rights.
Robert. P. Rutila, is a founding member of Rutila, Seibt & Nash PLLC, and has been practicing construction and real estate law in Arizona since 1999. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-712-0035. RSN Law intends this article to be for informational purposes, not to rely on a specific legal matter, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.