Despite the challenges many business sectors have faced in the past couple of years, the same cannot be said for the construction industry in Florida and elsewhere. According to recent reporting, people of all ages continue to flock to the Sunshine State, and that means new construction projects, including over 160,000 single-family housing starts in 2022.
While this is a boon for many Florida construction companies, contractors should be wary of liability claims that may spring out of alleged construction defects from a dissatisfied client. Such claims may target not only contractors and subs, but construction owners and their partners.
The elements of a construction defect claim
Construction defects may be minor issues such as peeling paint or leaky windows, but they can also involve major problems such as foundation cracks, design flaws, code violations, or alleged substandard work. A successful construction defect claim must prove one of several possible claims:
- Breach of warranty
- Breach of contract
Recoverable damages can include the cost of the repairs, damages for loss of use and diminution of the property value, as well as attorney’s fees. Most states have a statute of limitations for filing a claim. Florida’s limit is four years from discovery of the defect, with a ten-year statute of repose for all claims.
Florida Statute 558
Also called the Florida Right to Repair Act, this law requires the homeowner to allow the contractor to attempt to correct the defect before they can file a claim. Because so many lawsuits end up in court where they may take months or even years to resolve, state lawmakers created this law to reduce litigation claims.
By law, the property owner must first file written notice to the other party 60 days before filing the action, during which time the responsible party must conduct an inspection and make efforts to repair the defect.
Once the inspection is complete, if the responsible party does not agree to the claims, they may dispute them. If they agree to repair the defect, they must describe the extent of repair they will perform or offer compensation for the defect, neither of which the other party must accept.
Because litigation is expensive and can significantly slow down operations, it is important for construction owners to find ways to protect their interests so that the business doesn’t suffer.