The Right to Repair Act (Civ.C §895 et seq.) Applies and is the Exclusive Remedy for a Homeowner Alleging Construction Defects

February 7, 2018
Craig Wallace – Smith Currie

McMillin Albany LLC v. Superior Court (01.18.18) ____ Cal.4th _____ (2018 WL 456728)
The California Supreme Court confirmed that the Right to Repair Act (CA Civil Code § 895, et seq. and often referred to by its legislative nomenclature as “SB800”) applies broadly to any action by a residential owner seeking recovery of damages for construction defects, regardless of whether such defects caused property damages or only economic losses. This includes the right in the Act of the builder to attempt repairs prior to the owner filing a lawsuit.

Background

Homeowners sued builder for construction defects. Included in their causes of action was a cause of action for violation of the Right To Repair Act. The Act requires that before filing litigation, a homeowner must give the builder notice and engage in a nonadversarial prelitigation process which gives the builder a right to repair the defects. The builder asked the court to stay the homeowners’ action so the prelitigaiton process could be undertaken. Rather than give the builder the repair right, the homeowners dismissed the particular cause of action from their case, leaving only other so-called common law and warranty causes of action. The common law claims sought recovery for property damage caused by the defects. The builder nonetheless asked to the Court to stay the action so it could exercise its right to repair.

The trial court, relying on Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. v. Brookfield Crystal Cove LLC (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 98, denied builder’s request to stay the action. The Liberty Mutual Court concluded that certain common law construction defect claims fell outside the purview of the Act. Builder appealed. The Court of Appeal disagreed with Liberty Mutual, so did not follow it, granted the builder’s request for a stay, and directed that the homeowners afford the builder the right to repair the claimed defects as provided under the Act.

The California Supreme Court affirmed, disapproving Liberty Mutual and the subsequent cases relying on it.

Mr. Wallace may be contacted at swwallace@smithcurrie.com



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