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What's the difference between a latent and patent defect?

Throughout the lifespan of a building, there are several different issues that can crop up, whether they involve problems during construction or maintenance issues years down the road. In general, the property owner will need to take on the responsibility of tending to these issues and making any necessary repairs.

However, in cases where there is a construction defect, the financial obligation to remedy the situation could fall on another party. Determining who may be held accountable for the defect will involve examining what type of defect it is: patent or latent.

A patent defect is one that is immediately or obviously noticeable. These could include electrical issues, leaks or drainage problems and/or cracks in walls or ceilings. These patent defects can typically be identified by anyone looking through a building during an inspection.

Latent defects, on the other hand, are not nearly as obvious right away. Building structures or materials may look and perform just fine for a period of time, but if there is a defect, they will ultimately fail and cause some serious problems. These types of defects could include inadequate reinforcement in building footings or missing elements in the building envelope.

Based on the type of defect found, it will be possible to identify the party or parties who may be to blame for the defect. For example, was the construction work fine but the materials were substandard? Were the materials adequate but the work was done by a negligent construction company? Was the structure doomed for defect from the design phase?

Finding the answers to these questions can be very difficult for people lacking legal and construction knowledge. For this reason, it can be crucial to discuss individual claims with an attorney familiar with construction litigation in Florida.

Whether you are a property owner who has discovered a defect or a company being named in a lawsuit, you would be wise to understand your legal rights and what you may be able to do to protect yourself, your property and/or your business.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Construction Defect FAQs," accessed on July 9, 2015

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