While patent defects are obvious and are typically discovered during an inspection of the property, latent defects are hidden. The difference between a patent and latent construction defect is important for a homeowner to understand when recovering damages for construction defects. When a homeowner has a home that contains a latent defect, years may go by before it is discovered. Latent defects can cause substantial damage to a home since they can exist for a long time without being noticed and repaired.
Patent Defects in Nevada
Patent defects are construction defects that are open and obvious, meaning that they should be reasonably discovered during a routine inspection. These types of defects can be seen with the naked eye. For example, severe stucco cracking or flaking may be reasonably observed by a homeowner just by walking around the house. A patent defect is one where a lay person, without construction experience, can observe and reasonably understand that there is likely a problem or defect.
Latent Defects in Nevada
Latent defects are those that are hidden and not easily discovered. They cannot be seen with the naked eye and may not be uncovered through a regular inspection. These types of defects can continue causing damage for years before they are found or may exist without causing damage for years after completion of construction. For instance, defectively installed plumbing may not be discovered until years after installation when a leak finally occurs and causes damage. Or, defective soil conditions may exist and not show evidence of damage to the home for years after completion, depending on seasonal precipitation and exposure of water to the soil. These types of defects are likely only discoverable once damage occurs or an expert can identify them.
Patent vs. Latent Defects in Court
Patent and latent construction defects are handled differently by courts. In Nevada, homebuyers are expected to conduct inspections to discover obvious defects before they decide to purchase a home. If they fail to conduct an inspection and to discover obvious (patent) defects, they may not be able to recover damages for said patent defects depending on the circumstances of the home sale. Latent defects, or those concealed by a seller, may be recoverable. For new home construciton defect actions, both patent and latent defect damages may be recoverable depending on the facts and evidence presented.
Sellers of residential real estate must complete disclosure forms to inform potential buyers regarding defects in their properties. If they fail to disclose defects that they know about or reasonably should know about, they may be liable to pay trebled damages to an innocent buyer.
When homeowners discover latent defects that have caused damage, they will normally be able to recover damages against the responsible parties. The parties that caused the defects and damage may have to repair the defects and/or compensate the homebuyer for the resulting losses.
The difference between a patent and latent defect might not always be clear to homeowners who have no expertise in the construction industry. It might also not be clear which parties are liable – a prior seller and/or a builder/contractor. A construction defect attorney can help a homeowner determine whether a valid construction defect claim exists and who the responsible party might be.