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FL May Cut Builder Lawsuits Again

Monday, March 30, 2015

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A new bill in Florida seeks to further tighten the time that building owners would have to sue builders, developers and other contractors over construction defects.

The bill, HB 501, would shave three years off the 10-year deadline currently allowed under the law. In 2006, the period was shortened from 15 to 10 years.

Florida State Rep. Jay Fant (R-Jacksonville), the bill's sponsor, says the measure aims to curb “frivolous” construction defect litigation against builders.

Jay Fant
 

Florida State Rep. Jay Fant (R-Jacksonville) says the bill is needed to reduce frivolous lawsuits against builders.

If passed, the new law would be effective July 1. The bill’s first reading was March 3.

Opponents: Not Long Enough

Opponents of the proposal say seven years is not long enough to uncover and sue for defects discovered in design, planning or construction.

The bill also unfairly shifts the burden of pursuing defects to the homeowner, with no recourse or recovery, Ron Woods, a licensed professional engineer, told First Coast News.

Governments Vulnerable

Republican lobbyist and former State Sen. Fred Dudley warned the House Civil Justice Subcommittee that the measure would also prevent public entities from suing private contractors for defective construction of public works projects, according to the news report.

builder
© iStock.com / gpointstudio

Under current law, homeowners and homeowners' associations in Florida have 10 years to commence an action against a builder for shoddy construction.

“We're not just talking about single-family homes, which is bad enough,” he said.

“ […] We're talking about every public building out there. Every hospital. Every public school. City Hall. How many of you have had courthouses that have had problems? Right! This bill will limit the ability of local governments to bring suits for those latent defects."

Homeowner Story

First Coast News also highlighted a story about Elizabeth Walsh, a homeowner in Jacksonville, who said her claim against the contractors who built her home would be barred under the pending bill.

Problems in the Walsh home were reportedly discovered eight years after she and her husband purchased the property.

Walsh said the couple eventually had to remove the whole back of the house because of shoddy construction, including improperly installed water barriers, thinly applied stucco, and sections of the wall constructed without insulation, according to the report.

Amid the home's soaking-wet insulation and rotted wood, the contractor even found frogs, Walsh said.

The case is ongoing.

Hot-Button Issue

Florida is not the only state seeking to overhaul construction defects legislation.

homes in Las Vegas
© iStock.com / SolielC

Builders in Nevada say the lawsuit risks have stopped them from taking on new projects.

In February, Nevada passed a measure reworking the 20-year-old law there.

The changes include restricting the definition of “a home defect” and making homeowners exhaust other options, such as the builder’s warranty and seeking resolution through the Nevada State Contractors Board, before pursuing a lawsuit.

Colorado lawmakers are also debating bills to make the construction defects law in place there more industry-friendly.

The measures include dropping the eight-year statute of limitations to four years.

Supporters of such legislation maintain that the modifications will help revive housing markets and boost construction jobs.

   

Tagged categories: Business matters; Concrete defects; Construction; Insulation; Laws and litigation; Residential Construction; Residential contractors

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