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The difference between patent and latent construction defects

Construction defects often lead to disputes, as both sides may not agree on whether something is truly a defect or not. Defining a defect sounds simple, but it is actually a fairly complex process.

One step in this process is simply differentiating between patent defects and latent defects. This gives you a starting point and helps you know exactly what you need to be looking for. So, what is the difference?

A patent defect is one that is clearly obvious during the inspection or something that is already known about. On the other hand, a latent defect is one that is hidden or concealed. This does not have to be done on purpose, but it means that you cannot easily observe the issue.

For instance, if someone has a house built and the contractor forgets to install an AC unit, that is a patent defect. It is clearly obvious to the homeowner that the unit never got installed. If the contractor does install the unit but does not complete the ductwork in the walls, though, the homeowner may not ever know. That's a latent defect. The ductwork is hidden behind the walls, vents and grates.

In both cases, the AC system is not going to work. The type of defect just determines how easy it is for someone on the outside to find the problem and bring attention to it. Many latent defects go overlooked for months or even years.

When a defect causes a construction dispute, it is important for those involved to know what type of defect it is and what legal rights they have.

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