Can I collect for root damage if I find after 15 years that the builder did not put a cap on an exposed section of a drain?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I collect for root damage if I find after 15 years that the builder did not put a cap on an exposed section of a drain?

We started having back ups in our kitchen sink. A plumber came out and
jackhammered a hole in our floor, dug down and removed the roots, repaired the
section of pipe and filled the hole. No problems there. While he was there, he
wondered, due to the extensiveness of the root infiltration if the builder had
failed to cap a pipe that went off from the drain at a ‘Y’ to the outside of our
home. I realize that 15 years is a long time, but if the builder neglected to cap
off a drain pipe, it would seem reasonable that it would take a while for the
problem to occur. I feel that if I dig up the pipe and that it doesn’t have a cap
and that roots our growing straight into our pipes, the builder should be liable
for this mistake. Any thoughts?

Asked on January 22, 2018 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, while your state has a long statutory period for filing a construction defect claim against a builder, it's still not as long as you need, even when it is what is called a "latent" defect, or one that is not easily or readily discernable, or even hidden from disovery. Even for a defect or problem like that, you must bring a lawsuit within ten (10) years of "substantial completion" (basically, completion but for finishes and "punch list" details) of the home--again, even if you could not find the defect until late. 10 years is a hard deadline, and at 15 years, you would have exceeded it.

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