Once a homeowner, commercial owner or homeowners association contacts us, we will visually inspect the property. With single family homes, we like to inspect as many homes as possible in the project so that we can get a feeling as to whether or not the defects are project wide. Once the inspection is complete, we will meet with homeowners or Boards of Directors to discuss their options.
Unfortunately, options are few and far between. Most developers are long gone by the time defects start appearing and are not particularly interested in coming back to perform the proper repair. Typically, they just want to "caulk and walk" as we say in the industry. Homeowners are left holding the bag and in the case of homeowners associations, dues very often are raised and assessments levied in an effort to cover the cost of repairs.
All of our cases are contingency based which means we take a percentage of the gross recovery as our fee. We also advance the costs including expert costs. There are no upfront costs to our clients. And if we don't recover for our clients, they don't owe us any fee.
Once a client retains us, we either go through a pre-litigation process (SB800) or a complaint is filed in Superior Court and the developer/builder has thirty days to respond. Once they respond, they will file a cross-complaint against all the subcontractors who performed work on the project.
Once we have completed our inspections, our experts, who usually include forensic architects, structural engineers, plumbing, and mechanical experts, and various other experts depending on the issues presented put together reports citing each defect and the recommended repair. The recommended repairs may be forwarded to a cost estimator. Demands are propounded upon the developers, builders and subcontractors once we have a cost of repair associated with each home or property. The demand not only includes the costs to repair each home, but also includes a demand for any of pocket expenses the homeowners have expended on repairs plus the costs of the expert investigation.
The defendants' will then have an opportunity to inspect the homes. We then enter a mediation phase in which the case usually resolves. We do not settle with defendants until we have the homeowners or the homeowner's association written authority to do so. Around ninety-nine percent of construction defect cases settle in a mediation context. On average our cases settle within twelve to eighteen months.