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Construction Defects – Time Limits under Florida’s Statute of Limitations

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Moving day, whether it involves moving into a brand-new home or an older home that has been renovated, renewed or refreshed, is the culmination of a long planning process that involves many details and lots of decisions. Even a more limited construction project, such as an addition or a renovation, requires careful attention and focus. While the hopeful result of all of the planning and careful decision making is a perfectly executed construction project, problems often occur. Defective construction is one such problem, and one that can lead to litigation. When defective construction claims are alleged, Florida law limits the time within which a lawsuit must be brought.

Florida Statute of Limitations – Lawsuits Based on Design, Planning or Construction of An Improvement to Real Property

Florida’s statute of limitations generally provides that any lawsuit based on design, planning or construction of an improvement to property (which includes a house being built) must be brought within four years of:

  • the date the owner takes actual possession
  • the date a certificate of occupancy is issued
  • if the construction was not abandoned, the date it was completed, or
  • the date the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer was completed or terminated, whichever is later

There is an exception to the time that the four-year period starts to run if the construction defect is a latent or hidden defect, however. In such a case, the statute of limitations time period begins to run at the time the defect is discovered (or should have been discovered).

Even if the exception applies, however, the lawsuit must be brought within 10 years after:

  • the date the owner takes actual possession
  • the date a certificate of occupancy is issued
  • if the construction was not abandoned, the date it was completed, or
  • the date the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer was completed or terminated, whichever is later

Florida Statute of Limitations – Lawsuits Based on Design, Planning or Construction of An Improvement to Real Property, An Example 

The Florida courts have applied the limitations rules to controversies that involve construction defect claims. In one case, Busch v. Lennar Homes, a Florida appellate court reversed a trial court order that dismissed a homeowner’s lawsuit against a builder that alleged construction defects. The complaint was filed nearly ten years after the closing on the plaintiff’s home. The appeals court (agreeing with the plaintiff) decided that the trial court should not have dismissed the lawsuit because:

  • the contract envisioned that the closing could occur even if work remained to be done under the contract, and
  • the complaint did not claim that work was not completed after the closing

As a result, it was not conclusively established that the contract was completed at the closing. 

Additional Considerations 

Florida’s statute of limitations contains other provisions that pertain to construction defect claims, counterclaims, cross-claims, and third-party claims, as well as claims that involve construction that is performed under a local or state building permit. If you would like to know more about these provisions, would like to know more about bringing a lawsuit based on an alleged construction defect, or have been sued because of an alleged defect and need to know your rights and responsibilities, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale construction lawyer at Sweeney Law.

Resource:

scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11503532387351395963&q=construction+defect&hl=en&as_sdt=4,10&as_ylo=2016

https://www.sweeneylawpa.com/preventing-construction-worker-falls/

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