When you have an obvious construction defect, it is known as a patent defect. It’s very clear. The contractor should see it, the homeowner should see it and the building inspector should see it. While these things do happen, they often get caught and fixed rather quickly.
For instance, maybe a roof was not installed properly, and it leaks across the top of the roofline. The first time it rains, they have water coming down through the drywall ceilings. Everyone knows there is a problem right away, probably long before anyone moves into the house.
A latent defect, on the other hand, is one that is not as clear. It’s hidden. It’s disguised. Someone could inspect the project from top to bottom and still not find it.
For example, perhaps the foundation was poured improperly, and one side is settling faster than the other. This leads to a crack in the foundation. However, there is merely a crawlspace below the home, and no one ever actually sees the foundation after it is built. This latent defect could lie hidden for months, years or decades before the settling and cracking is bad enough to cause issues at the higher and more visible levels of the home.
Because of this, latent defects are particularly hard to identify and address. These situations can get quite complicated. It may be unclear when or how the defect occurred or who is responsible for it. Both parties may disagree on these facts or the extent of the issue. It’s important for all involved to know their legal options.