State Statute of Limitations Plus One Year
Aside from building plans, construction documents encompass a broad range of materials, including estimates, contracts, subcontracts, supply orders, purchase orders, change orders and photos. In the online edition of Remodeling Magazine, one Los Angeles contractor says that California has "a 10-year statute of limitations for latent/patent defects," so he keeps project documentation "in its original format" for 11 years.
IRS Requires 3 to 7 Years
The Florida law firm of Ferencik, Libanoff, Brandt, Bustamante and Williams indicates that, at minimum, contractors must comply with Internal Revenue Service rules requiring retention of records for three years by individuals and three to seven years by businesses. However, the law firm indicates this is too short and might leave contractors vulnerable to lawsuits.
In Arizona alone, the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) receives up to 13,000 consumer complaints annually. "Many of the cases resolved through an administrative hearing could have been resolved more quickly if the customer or the contractor had maintained proper construction documents," the ROC says. How long consumers can seek restitution and how long contractors should retain documents depends on state statutes of limitations. While California cuts off liability at 10 years, Florida laws make it wise to retain records for 15 years.