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Defect rights of the construction owner

Checklist for the correct procedure when filing complaints about defects.

The answer in detail

Rectifying defects is a key element of any construction project

But what actually is considered to be faulty workmanship? What defect rights do I as construction owner have and what are the right steps to take in practice?

Faulty workmanship is when there is a deviation between the actual product (current state) and the product that was contractually agreed or the required features the product should have (target state). Often a product has a feature that it should not have according to the contract (for example, installation of building materials that the construction owner expressly did not want to have installed).

If there is a defect and it is possible to improve it, then the construction owner is entitled to have the defect remedied at the expense of the contractor.

The content of the agreement is generally based on the Swiss Code of Obligations (SCO). However, the parties can agree that the standards of the Swiss Association of Engineers and Architects (SIA) apply as special provisions, especially SIA standard 118 regarding general conditions for construction work. If SIA standard 118 should apply, then the work and services contract must expressly declare its application, otherwise the SCO shall be decisive.

The construction owner must lodge a complaint regarding any defects in good time. Should they fail to do so, the defective product shall be deemed approved. For reasons of proof, we recommend lodging the complaint about any defects in writing.

According to the Swiss Code of Obligations, the complaint regarding the defect must be made immediately after it is discovered. The limitation period is five years. According to SIA standard 118, complaints regarding defects must be made within two years from the day of handover. The limitation period is five years. 

If a property has been built, the product is handed over to the construction owner. The handover is an important part of the works and services contract and plays a particularly important role in the case of a dispute. 

The law does not stipulate the details of how a handover should take place, but our acceptance log can help.

If the contractor refuses to sign the acceptance log, we recommend you send a complaint in writing by registered mail.

Here, you will find a sample letter and additional information for this purpose.

Important documents
Vorlage Abnahmeprotokoll Mängelrüge Bauherr