This is a continuing article series on Construction Defects in New York, These include an introduction (part 1), design defects (part 2), defective construction (part 3), improper materials (part 4), improper installations (part 5) and finally important time limitations which apply to seeking legal action for defective construction in New York (part 6).
Although construction litigation can be complex and often requires expert testimony, one of the most complicated areas is simply determining the timeframe a party has to bring forth an action in New York.
The answer can vary based on whom the claims are brought against and the type of claim being made.
The issue of when a claim arises is also one without a simple answer. Unlike most other actions under the law, it may not always be clear when a construction defect first occurred. Generally, under New York construction law, most construction defects are considered to have accrued at the time the construction reached a stage of ‘substantial completion.’
Claims of negligence or malpractice of the design professionals are subject to a three-year statute of limitations.
For claims relating to defective materials, the time limits that apply are fact specific and may vary from case to case depending on whether the claims are for goods or services. Some defective material claims have a four-year statute of limitations, while others must be brought in three years. Claims for breach of contract are subject to a six-year statute of limitations.
Under the New York General Obligations Law, developers of buildings five stories or under must provide buyers with warranties that cover different elements of the construction for periods of one, two or six years, depending on the type of defect. The one-year warranty is for claims of shoddy workmanship; two years, for defects in systems like plumbing, electrical or temperature regulation and six years for structural defects.
For latent construction defects, however, it may be possible for claims of defective construction be made substantially beyond the limits of substantial completion. (See Latent Defects, Part XX)
Where a latent construction defect has only been discovered beyond the expiration of the above timeframe, it still may be possible for a damaged owner to assert its claims under varying theories of negligence and/or contract law.
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The author, John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: John@LIConstructionLaw.com or (631) 608-1346.
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 When a structure has attained substantial completion may also be open to interpretation, depending on the underlying project documents, including the contract(s) and certifications for payment from the architect of record, among others. Generally a project has reached substantial completion when it is able to be used by the owner for its intended purpose. See City School Dist. of City of Newburgh v. Hugh Stubbins & Assoc. Inc., 85 N.Y.2d 535
 N.Y. C.P.L.R. 214(6)
 Sale of goods are generally governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.)
 N.Y. C.P.L.R. 214(6); claims under UCC have a four-year statute of limitation
 For claims based upon a strict products liability theory
This is a general information article and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers are encouraged to seek counsel from a construction lawyer for advice on a particular circumstance.