What is the difference between patent and latent defects?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2023 | Construction Law

Perceived construction defects will always be a source of dispute. But there are certainly different ways that these defects can be defined. Two of the most basic categories for construction defects are patent defects and latent defects.

Perhaps the easiest way to define these is that a patent defect is one that is going to be visible, while a latent defect is one that will be hidden. If a homeowner walks into the house, though they may overlook a patent defect, it would be visible and should theoretically be clear to them. These are defects that are sometimes found during home inspections. A latent defect, on the other hand, may not show up for years, and the homeowner may not have any idea that there was a problem until it does.

Why this makes things more complicated

Latent defects are often more complex because of the delay. For one thing, this can just bring into question what caused the defect. Was there really an issue when the house was constructed or renovated, or has the homeowner done something to create the problem in the meantime?

Additionally, latent defects may be more detrimental because they are hidden and they won’t be addressed quickly. This can cause long-term deterioration and other such issues. If a faucet doesn’t work, it’s a patent defect and often just means that the supply lines weren’t hooked up correctly. But if a pipe is leaking slowly within a wall, it could be causing rot and decay for years before it is discovered.

Because these issues can become so complex, it’s very important for those involved to know about the legal options at their disposal.