There Is A Private Right To Sue For Building Code Violations
Anybody in the construction industry likely knows that whenever you complete a project, you must comply with the Florida building code. You may have also already known that if you don’t the state can levy fines or other penalties. But did you know that there is a private right of action—that is, that the owner (the party you are constructing the project for) can sue, privately, for your violations of the building code?
Who is Liable?
Be aware that as a contractor, the law is written to make you ultimately liable for building code violations—even if it’s a subcontractor who committed the error that led to the code violation. That’s because the law says you are liable if you committed the act, and it’s presumed that the contractor committed the violation, even if it’s the subcontractors error.
The law doesn’t just make a developer liable for committing a violation. It also makes a party liable if it “knew or should have known” of the violation. For developers, this can create some confusion. In some cases, a developer may be a passive party, working in the background. In other situations, the developer is the builder, or at least, exercises some substantial control or supervision over the construction of the project.
In the latter case, the developer could be liable for building code violations-although there have been cases that said that a developer is almost never liable, no matter how much involvement.
Depending on the jurisdiction and the location of your case, whether the developer should have known of a violation, ultimately will fall to the jury to determine (although it should be noted that there is nothing in the law that prohibits arbitration of building code violation lawsuits).
If an owner believes that there is a code violation, before suing, the owner must provide the contractor notice of the claim, and provide an opportunity for the builder to fix or correct the mistakes. The intent of the notice is to give parties the chance to resolve code claims confidentially, privately, and without the need to clog courts with code violation cases.
If an owner doesn’t comply with the notice requirement, the owner can still sue for breach of contract, or any other legal theory—the owner just can’t sue for the private right of action for a building code violation. The owner also can still sue for any personal injury action that arises, from the building code violation even if the notice wasn’t sent.
If the builder doesn’t comply, there is no penalty—the builder can simply disagree with the notice, and allow the case to be filed in court.
Before sending any notice under the law, the project must be completed. That generally means that a certificate of occupancy has been issued, or until all requirements under the construction contracts have been fulfilled.
Call our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 for help today in any construction related litigation or dispute.