Proposed Legislation Will Hurt Owners by Shortening Timeframe to Bring Claims
In addition to the proposed legislation to substantially change Chapter 558, link here, the Legislature is considering other legislation that will materially impact owners and taxpayers. HB501 proposes to reduce the time owners have to pursue construction defect claims from 10 after completion to 7 years after completion. Specifically, the proposed legislation reduces the time frame within which a claim can be brought for latent defects (a defect you did not know about or had no reason to know about) in the design, planning or construction of improvements to real property from the current 10 years to 7 years. This reduction of time to pursue claims apply to claims where the building code was violated. Why should Florida provide less protection to owners when historically, and now again, the biggest building booms have been occurring in Florida. Even the AIA Form Agreements, not always owner friendly, provide for a 10 year statute of repose. More time should be provided because significant defects cannot often be discovered earlier.
In the Firm’s practice some of the most frequent defects which evidence themselves more than 7 years after completion:
- the failure to properly treat post tension cables in high rise projects. The ends are not capped or treated with grout and waterproofing;
- improper concrete cover over reinforcing steel on balconies;
- stucco delamination;
- bursting condenser sensor water pipes behind walls that have seams or improper fitting that fail;
- roof membranes improperly installed and leaking into structural deck and trusses causing structural damage;
- roof tiles improperly fastened and not compliant with wind codes;
- a roof that appears new yet it is discovered it covers and old existing roof and has not adhered;
- window frames with a useful life in excess of 20 years fail in year 10 by pitting and blistering;
- sink hole issues that all should be familiar with in Florida;
- poorly compacted soil;
- concrete that is of less than the required compressive strength starts to crumble impacting structural members;
- columns and beams with insufficient steel that is not apparent until a failure occurs ;
The attempt to reduce the time frame for the Statute of Repose for latent defects affects owners in existing buildings as the clock is running on those buildings already. It is important that every condominium owner realize that this bill is a further stripping away of the rights of condominium unit owners and deserves to be soundly defeated. Repair of significant defects will be solely on the owners rather than the parties that created the defective situation. However, not only are condominiums impacted but public construction such as schools, hospitals, roadways and public facilities such as stadiums. If deficiencies exist where the statute has expired, the public will pay for the corrective work as opposed to those that created the condition through faulty workmanship and design. The burden to pay should be borne by those accountable for the issue.
Why in this climate is legislation helping shoddy construction being pushed? The only beneficiaries are construction professionals that perform lousy work that can avoid liability for their poor performance by waiting out the clock. The bottom line is that it is the consumer and taxpayer that are impacted by this legislation designed to help contractors, design professionals, subcontractors and suppliers.