Most residents of Washington understand that legal claims for personal injury and damage to property are subject to strict limits that may cut off a claim if it is not filed in a timely fashion. One such time limit that is not widely known or understood is the state’s “statute of repose.” This statute applies to claims for defects in the construction or improvement to real property, and it is intended to cut off all claims that might arise from a defect in construction.
The repose period
Washington statutes state that all claims arising out of claimed defects in construction shall be barred six years after the “substantial completion of construction or the termination of services.” The date on which services of a contractor or architect can usually be determined without much debate, but the phrase “substantial completion of construction” has sparked much litigation aimed at sharpening the definition of this term. The statute provides that the term substantial completion of construction means “the state of completion reached when an improvement upon real property may be used or occupied for its intended use.”
The statute of repose is employed most frequently to cut off claims arising out of residential construction. Owners of residential property are least likely to ignore or disregard a minor defect in construction. Also, persons who want to construct their own house often suffer from miscommunication with their architect or contractor, which leads to mistakes in both design and construction.
Legal disputes relating to the application of the statute of repose can become very complex. Anyone who is contemplating making a claim for an error in design or construction may wish to consult an experienced construction defect attorney for an evaluation of the evidence and an opinion on whether the claim is barred by either the statute of limitation or the statute of repose.