The Texas Residential Construction Liability Act (“RCLA”) became part of the Texas property code in 2003. It sets out the formal process for bringing a suit against a contractor for a residential construction defect. A demand letter is one of the mandatory steps for a homeowner addressing construction defects with contractors, who can use a homeowner’s failure to follow certain steps to their defensive advantage in an RCLA claim.

In this article, Davis Business Law will explain the required elements and processes for RCLA claims and what builders or contractors can do to protect themselves. For more help, contact one of our business attorneys today.

Key Takeaways

  • The Texas Residential Construction Liability Act (RCLA) outlines the legal obligations for addressing construction defects in residential properties.
  • Homeowners must follow a specific process, including sending a detailed and evidence-supported demand letter via certified mail before filing a lawsuit, giving contractors a fair chance to address identified defects.
  • Contractors have various options for responding to an RCLA demand letter, such as making settlement offers or scheduling inspections, and timely and appropriate action can prevent costly legal battles.

Understanding Residential Construction Liability Act Basics.

The RCLA provides a structured process for homeowners to bring claims against homebuilders or contractors for construction defects, including residential construction defect disputes. This act covers a range of residences, including single-family homes, condominiums, and duplexes or multi-family residences.

A construction defect under the Residential Construction Liability Act includes failures in design, construction, or repair that do not meet warranty standards or cause physical damage to the property, such as structural failure. Moreover, the act requires homeowners to follow a formal process when filing a residential construction defect lawsuit, which, if not adhered to, can protect the builder or contractor from liability.

The RCLA’s structured process is designed to facilitate communication and resolution between the homeowner and the contractor. Grasping and following this process allows contractors to handle disputes efficiently and deter the escalation into expensive legal confrontations.

What Must a Homeowner Include in an RCLA Demand Letter

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When a homeowner identifies defects in their newly constructed home, the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act mandates that they provide a 60-day notice of their intent to file a lawsuit against the contractor responsible for the defective work. This notice, known as a demand letter, is a critical step in the process, as it lays the groundwork for resolving the dispute without immediate recourse to legal action.

A demand letter must include the following:

  • All known defects with reasonable specificity, specifying whether the issues are structural or cosmetic;
  • Supporting evidence; and
  • Be sent via certified mail to ensure proper documentation.

Each of these requirements is designed to ensure that the contractor has a fair opportunity to address the issues before a lawsuit is initiated.

Describing Construction Defects with Reasonable Detail

Drafting an RCLA demand letter requires a clear and detailed outline of the issues. The letter must describe the construction defects or structural failure with enough specificity to clearly outline the problems. This includes detailing the nature and extent of the defects, their location, and the impact they have on the property.

Employing exact language is necessary to convey the exact nature of the defects to the contractor for them to take appropriate actions. For example, instead of merely stating that there is a “leak,” the letter should specify the location, the extent of the water damage, and any structural implications. This level of detail helps in avoiding misunderstandings and facilitates a more effective resolution.

Including Supporting Evidence

Supporting evidence in an RCLA demand letter substantiates the identified defects, making the claims more credible. Types of supporting evidence can include:

  • Photographs;
  • Videos;
  • Expert reports; and
  • Inspection reports.

These forms of evidence provide a visual and technical basis for the claims, allowing a contractor to reasonable inspect and analyze them.

Photographs and videos visually demonstrate the defects mentioned, providing a clear depiction of the issues. Expert reports and inspection reports can further explain the nature and cause of the defects in detail, offering a professional assessment that supports the homeowner’s claims.

Sending the Demand Letter via Certified Mail

To guarantee proper documentation and proof of the date of sending and receiving, the demand letter should be sent via certified mail, with a return receipt requested. This step is crucial in the legal process, as it provides verifiable evidence that the contractor has received the complaint.

Contractor’s Response to the RCLA Demand Letter

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Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

Upon receiving a demand letter, contractors have several options for responding. They can choose to make a counteroffer, settle the claims, or reject the claims with a detailed explanation. Each of these responses has implications for how the dispute may proceed.

A contractor might also opt to take one of the following actions in response to a demand letter:

  • Negotiate a settlement with the homeowner;
  • Offer a compromise or alternative solution;
  • Seek mediation or arbitration;
  • Consult with legal counsel; or
  • Take no action, which could lead to the homeowner initiating a lawsuit.

It is wise for a contractor or builder to seek legal counsel for help figuring out how to respond to a demand letter. Understanding these options and the proper next steps is paramount for contractors.

Scheduling Inspections

Contractors have the right to request up to three inspections within 35 days of receiving the demand letter to assess the alleged defects. These inspections are pivotal in ascertaining the nature and cause of the defects and formulating the required repairs.

During these inspections, contractors can document the defects through photographs and videos, providing their own evidence to support their assessment of the issues. This process ensures that contractors have a fair opportunity to understand the problems and propose appropriate solutions.

Making a Written Settlement Offer

Within 45 days of receiving the demand letter, contractors must make a written settlement offer. This offer can include proposals for repair, replacement, or monetary compensation. The goal is to address all the defects listed in the homeowner’s demand letter and propose a fair resolution.

If repair or replacement is not feasible, a reasonable monetary settlement can be offered to cover the cost of the necessary repairs. The written settlement offer should be comprehensive and reasonable, demonstrating the contractor’s commitment to resolving the issues amicably.

Responding to the Settlement Offer

Homeowners have 25 days to accept or reject the contractor’s settlement offer. If the homeowner rejects the offer, the contractor has 10 days to provide a new written settlement offer.

If a reasonable offer is rejected and the homeowner proceeds to file a lawsuit, they may only recover the fair market value of the contractor’s last offer, which should ideally be at a reasonable cost. This underlines the need for meticulous consideration of good faith settlement offers.

Legal Considerations and Deadlines

Texas law provides specific timeframes for filing claims under the Residential Construction Liability Act. There is a four-year statute of limitations for breach of contract and warranty claims, and a two-year period for product liability and negligence claims. Both homeowners and contractors need to comprehend these deadlines.

Exceptions to these statutes of limitations include the Discovery Rule and Fraudulent Concealment. The Discovery Rule allows the accrual of the statute of limitations to begin when the construction defect is discovered, rather than when it occurred. These nuances highlight the importance of seeking legal advice. Contractors and builders can use the statutes of limitations to defend their claims.

Importance of Timely Notification

Timely notification is crucial in Residential Construction Liability Act cases. The demand letter must be sent at least 60 days before initiating an action seeking damages or other relief. This ensures that the contractor has a reasonable opportunity to address the issues before a lawsuit is filed.

Consulting a Business Attorney

Navigating the complexities of the RCLA can be challenging, and consulting a business attorney can be highly beneficial. An attorney with detailed knowledge of the Texas Property Code, Chapter 27, can provide tailored legal advice for RCLA cases. By consulting a business attorney, contractors can better manage their contractor’s liability, protect their interests, and resolve personal injury disputes effectively.


Understanding the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act (RCLA) is essential for contractors to effectively manage potential disputes and liabilities. By following the structured process outlined in the RCLA, making sure homeowners follow the process too, and seeking legal advice when necessary, contractors can protect their business and maintain positive professional relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of an RCLA demand letter?

The purpose of a demand letter is to notify the contractor of defects and allow them to address the issues before taking legal action. This ensures that both parties have an opportunity to resolve the matter amicably.

What should be included in an RCLA demand letter?

In a Texas RCLA demand letter, it’s important to include detailed descriptions of the defects, supporting evidence, and send it via certified mail. This helps to clearly outline the issue and provide a record of delivery.

How long does a contractor have to respond to a demand letter?

A contractor has 45 days to make a written settlement offer after receiving the demand letter. This timeframe allows for a formal and considered response to the demand.

What happens if a homeowner rejects a settlement offer?

If a homeowner rejects a settlement offer, they can file a lawsuit, but their potential recovery may be limited to the fair market value of the contractor’s last offer.

Why is timely notification important in RCLA cases?

Timely notification in RCLA cases is important because it ensures that the contractor has a reasonable opportunity to address the issues and can avoid further legal complications.


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