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Construction Defects Lawyers in Germany

During a construction project, especially a new build or during home renovation, construction defects pose a significant risk for building owners. Before engaging in an important project, building owners should consult with experienced construction lawyers to know their legal rights. Such construction projects (such as a new build) tend to be once-off undertakings, and therefore the private building owner is likely to be inexperienced in such complex matters. Working with an expert in German construction law means that you will receive insightful advice regarding current laws, regulations and deadlines. Not working with legal advisors from the start can leave the building owner facing costly and time-consuming legal battles and considerable expenses for fixing the construction defects.

Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte is a full-service law firm with offices and conference rooms around Germany. We advise clients worldwide in matters of German construction law and we provide our services in English and German. The information provided in this article is not the same as legal advice tailored to your situation. If you are involved in a construction project or in a legal case, specialised legal counsel will provide you with the necessary recommendations regarding how to proceed. Contact our team directly using the contact details below.

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What are Construction Defects?

Construction defects can take many forms; however, the most obvious indicator is if the building is not built as contractually agreed. Such problems may appear small at first, but if left unchanged, they may cause structural damage, leading to high repair costs. Although some defects may be obvious, most are not and only become apparent after time has passed. With the assistance of an expert in construction by your side, a defect can be detected early, which will prevent the necessary costly repairs. As a building owner, it is vital to find faults early in the process, as if the defect is discovered too late, they may not be able to get compensation for the damage caused. Early detection can also prevent costly and time-consuming legal battles from arising. Usually, construction projects have a warranty period lasting between two and five years; however, this can vary significantly depending on the contract.

A construction defect can be in the form of:

  • leaks,
  • faults in the construction process such as the inadequate sealing of the foundation and basement,
  • usage of different materials than agreed,
  • incorrect installation of windows or inadequate insulation,
  • faulty flooring resulting in rooms that are the wrong size,
  • cracks.

Should any of these be detected at an early stage during the construction project, it is advisable to bring them to the attention of those undertaking the building project and to consult with an expert in construction law. Upon agreement of a construction contract, the builder should carry out the building of the project as agreed to in the document.


What are the Benefits of Working with a Construction Lawyer?

In the area of construction defects, there are many benefits to working with an expert construction lawyer.

Drafting The Construction Contract

If a lawyer is engaged early in the project, they can support you from the planning phase and draw up the construction contract. The construction contract outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved in the project. This document plays a crucial role in the entire process, and missing elements can cause further problems later on, such as additional costs, delays and confusion. An experienced construction lawyer will seek to ensure that your plans are carried out in the manner that you intend them to be, avoid costly mistakes and will deliver clarity in the contract.

Without an expert lawyer to draft the construction contract, costly mistakes can arise. These include undefined deadlines, non-penalties for delays, no provisions regarding the extension of construction times, and even more basic issues such as non-defining of the construction subject matter and non-specification of the building materials that can damage the project. Our lawyers have vast experience in matters of contract law. They can thoroughly examine the contract or draft the building contract to ensure that none of these issues arises during the building.

Support throughout the Project

Experienced construction lawyers can be there throughout the building project and can be relied upon in times of doubt. If you have queries regarding whether the building partner is following the contract, it can be worthwhile to contact your lawyer directly and let them examine the matter closely. By contacting your lawyer as soon as doubts appear, they can determine whether a construction defect has happened and advise how the case can be remedied. Our team can also apply their experience in uncovering hidden defects that may not be obvious to you. Knowledgeable construction attorneys will be able to confidently discuss the matter with building partners to rectify the issue. If they are not obliging, they will be able to prepare you for possible legal action.

Our team is aware of the difficulties involved with complex building projects, and defects can easily happen. We will seek to collaborate with your building partners as far as possible, mainly to avoid costly legal battles. However, our priority is delivering legal service of the highest quality to our clients. Our lawyers will defend your interests and provide specialised advice and comprehensive representation. We will outline what is involved with every step and ensure that you are entirely on board with any decisions made on the issue.

Legal Guidance with Defects

In the next paragraph, we examine how to document the defects. Once our lawyers are made aware of the construction defects, they will provide an outline of your legal rights to rectify the matter. They will also oversee the fixing of the issue to ensure that the service provider has fulfilled their contractual requirements to fix the problem as necessary. Whether you have a legal case will be based on many factors, but one of the most important is when the defect was discovered. Our lawyers provide comprehensive guidance on warranty claims and breach of contract issues under German law.

Enforce Your Rights

German construction law is a complex area, as there are local, state, federal and European regulations that need to be considered. With the sheer volume of legislation in the area, it can be an overwhelming experience for non-lawyers and those who are involved in a major construction project. Discovering a defect can also leave a person with valid questions concerning how best to tackle the matter. Leaving a problem to fester can result in far greater issues down the line. With our construction lawyers by your side, you can proceed with greater confidence.


What to do when Construction Defects are found?

If you uncover construction defects, it is advisable to act calmly and follow these steps. Behaving aggressively and threatening legal action straightaway can be damaging, as court cases in construction cases can take years to complete. Maintaining a productive partnership with those involved in the construction project can also prevent the need to change the builder.  At the same time, you have the right to have the building be constructed as agreed to in the contract.

Document the Defect

Upon discovering the construction defect, you need to document the time of discovery, the nature of it and take photographs of the issue. Create a report that clearly demonstrates the problem, and make sure it is dated. Create a document for yourself but also one that you can send to your construction partners. Sending it by registered post means that you will have a dated copy of it. If you require additional assistance, you can consult with one of our lawyers in advance of making the report.

The letter should outline the nature of the defect, ask the builder to fix the fault and then provide a deadline as to when they should rectify it. Providing a deadline demonstrates that the issue needs to be taken seriously and that you will consider further actions if the letter is ignored.

Have a Lawyer examine the Construction Contract

If the builders have not responded to the original letter, having an expert construction lawyer examine the construction contract and draft a letter on your behalf may encourage them to take the matter more seriously. If it is the case that they are at fault, they will know that this matter is essential to resolve.

Extend the deadline if necessary.

Upon sending another letter from a construction lawyer, it may be necessary to extend the deadline. Extending the deadline will depend on the nature of the defect and how urgently it needs to be resolved. A deadline of 14 days to respond is usually fair. It should be evident in the letter whether this is their last chance to rectify the defect. This document should also be sent by registered post, and make sure to keep copies of all the documents sent.

Take Action

If, after you have taken these steps, the builder or service provider has not remedied the issue or made any moves towards that, it is within your rights to take action. Such actions may include seeking a reduction on the agreed construction price, looking for another construction company to fix the issue, seeking compensation from the company, rescinding the construction contract and taking legal action. Our lawyers are experts at mediation and negotiation and can employ these skills to resolve the matter outside of court if possible but also in court if necessary.

The right solution for you will depend on the nature of the defect, the size of the construction project, whether you are in the midst of a project or if it is at the end of the project and many other factors.

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Practice Group: German Construction Law

Practice Group:
German Construction Law

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Dr. Tim Schlun

Lawyer | Managing Partner

Tobias Pluntke

Lawyer

Verena Ziemes

Lawyer | Freelance

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Contact a German Lawyer for Support with Construction Projects & Construction Defects

Please use the contact form to tell us your concerns regarding construction defects. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment on the basis of the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to instruct our construction lawyers.