Introduction to the California Homebuilders’ Right to Repair Act

SB 800 is a complex, broadly reaching law that covers many construction defects in new home construction.

No party involved in the construction of a new home wants to deal with construction defects and the physical and legal nightmares that can come with them - neither the new homeowners nor anyone providing construction services. In California, the Homebuilders' Right to Repair Act, commonly referred to as SB 800, is widely applicable to defective residential construction in new homes.

Here we introduce the main provisions of the Act, but the law itself and the cases that have interpreted it are extremely complicated. Whether you are a homeowner, a contractor or any other party involved with a possible instance of defective home construction in California, it is important to get an attorney on board as soon as possible.

A lawyer with construction law experience will investigate the situation and provide legal and procedural advice, including any deadlines that may apply. (The calculation of deadlines is particularly complicated under SB 800. For example, deadlines can vary depending on the particular kind of defect.)

Legal counsel is also important to help determine whether the Right to Repair Act applies or whether other legal remedies should also be considered.

Applies to builders

SB 800 assigns responsibility for construction defects to "a builder" and in certain circumstances to "a general contractor, subcontractor, material supplier, individual product manufacturer, or design professional." The definition of "builder" is complex and contains certain exceptions. An important legal issue in each case is whether a particular construction professional falls within the law's umbrella of responsibility.

Functionality standards

The Right to Repair Act allows homeowner claims for construction defects specifically enumerated in the law in great detail, called "functionality standards." Broadly, the standards cover:

  • Water issues
  • Structural issues
  • Soil issues
  • Fire protection issues
  • Plumbing and sewer issues
  • Electrical system issues
  • Certain "other areas of construction" concerning certain outdoor cracking, installation of particular manufactured products, heating, air conditioning, attached structures, irrigation, untreated wood posts and steel fences, paint and stains, roofing, landscaping, and tile and dryer ducts
  • Construction involving "public health hazards"

Certain building components are subject to a one-year "fit and finish" warranty. Further, a builder may choose to provide an "enhanced protection agreement" that offers "greater protection" than the functionality standards do.

Remedies

A homeowner may file a lawsuit under SB 800 for not meeting the functionality standards (potentially even when not meeting a standard has not yet caused property damage or human injury), but first the owner must provide a very specific notice of the claim to the potential defendant. A complex procedure then kicks in that requires certain builder responses and allows the builder to perform inspections and testing of the problem as well as to offer a repair solution or a cash settlement.

Defenses

If the matter ends up in court, the Act provides for several defenses. For example, did the homeowner fail to undertake appropriate maintenance? Did the builder undertake a successful repair that corrected the problem?

This article does not even begin to cover related insurance issues or the myriad of other areas covered by the Act such as requirements about documentation requests and disclosure, notices and public filings, waivers and more.

It should also be noted that the parties may choose an alternative dispute resolution procedure when they enter into the original sales agreement. Such an alternative may substitute for some of the requirements of the Act, but not necessarily all.

The experienced construction lawyers of Last & Faoro in San Mateo represent homeowners, contractors, property owners, commercial entities, subcontractors, design professionals, suppliers, manufacturers and others in construction defect matters throughout the state of California.