In an unpublished opinion by a California Court of Appeal, the Right to
Repair Act has been interpreted and applied in a manner that is beneficial
for California homeowners and associations.
Homeowners Marc and Clarice Gerstel noticed some problems in their home,
and provided the developer of their property with a Notice of Construction
Defects as required by their purchase agreement and the Civil Code. The notice cited Civil Code section 896, which lists a multitude of various
defects that can be found in new developments. In particular, the notice
claimed problems with “‘excessive drywall cracks,’ including ‘cracking on structural
beams and arches.’” The parties submitted the dispute to arbitration. It was discovered, after the homeowners conducted additional testing and
inspection, that the property had “serious structural problems.” The arbitrator, thus, found in favor of the Gerstels.
The developer appealed, claiming that the Notice of the defects failed
to cite the
specific Civil Code section (citing only the general section 896) and, in turn,
failed to cite the specific defect. Without citing the specific Civil Code section, the developer was claiming
that the Notice was ineffective as to the structural defect claims. Rather than merely citing Civil Code section 896 and stating the claimed
defects, the developer claimed that the Gerstels instead needed to cite
the specific subsection of Civil Code section 896 to which in this case
that would have been section 896(b).
Both the arbitrator and the appellate court disagreed with the developer’s argument. It was determined the
Civil Code only required the homeowner to provide sufficient information
of the nature and location of the claimed defects. The Gerstels, in their notice, stated there were cracks in drywall and
structural beams. This was found to be sufficient to place the developer
on notice of a claim for structural defects.
Developers alike will cringe at this case, while homeowners and associations
should find comfort in knowing their initial notices of claims can be
more broadly stated to encompass the defects and their locations more
generally rather than alarmingly specific.
Gerstel v. D.R. Horton Los Angeles Holding Company, Inc. (2015) 2015 WL 5521970, *1.