New Law Makes it Harder to Sue for Building Code Violations
Let’s say that a builder constructs a building or a home. A purchaser buys it, lives in or uses it, and sells it. Perhaps it is bought multiple times. At some point, an owner of the property comes to a realization: something about the way the property was built is not up to applicable building codes.
Can the new (current) owner sue the builder for the building code violation?
Building Code Violations
The answer is generally yes, although it is not easy to do so. Florida law does allow a private owner to sue a builder of a property for a building code violation, even if the owner is not the original purchaser from the builder.
Any case for a violation of a building code, is a case for negligence—which means that the party suing has to find fault. Violating the building code isn’t automatically negligence or liability. It’s just evidence of negligence.
Not Everyone is Liable
You are probably aware that in a typical construction project, there are a number of parties involved in the building or construction of the property. Florida law doesn’t make everybody liable for a building code violation; the party suing must show which party was responsible for the violation, and only that party is liable for it.
Material Defects Only
As of a 2023 law change, suing for a building code violation has become a bit more difficult. As of 2023, it is not enough to show that there was just a building code violation, but rather, a suing party must show that the violation was “material.”
This means that the defect must result in, or reasonably be anticipated to result in, harm to a person, or otherwise, that the defect causes “significant damage” to a building.
Additionally, a builder must know of the violation, or at least, the suing party must show that the builder (or liable parties) “should have known” of the violation to be held liable.
Shorter Time Limits
Time limits to file lawsuits for building code violations (including lawsuits for construction of improvements to property) have been shortened. The time is still technically the same, but what has changed is the “triggering event,” that is, when the clock “starts ticking” on the unchanged 4 year time limit.
There is a list of things that can trigger the statute of limitations clock. The law used to say that the clock started ticking on the latest event. Now, the clock will start ticking on the earliest event. Additionally, the issuance of a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of completion, are both events that start the clock.
For “latent defects,” the entire law remains unchanged, with the date of when the defect was discovered, or should have been discovered, being the triggering event.
Construction lawsuits and law can be complex. Call our Fort Lauderdale construction lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today for help with any construction related lawsuit or defect that you may have.