Construction defect claims are common and costly problems for owners and contractors throughout South Florida. If not quickly resolved, construction defect claims lead to expensive and protracted litigation over the allegedly flawed work. First implemented in 2003, Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes has attempted to protect the rights of both property owners and contractors by providing a mechanism to resolve claims without having to resort to lawsuits. However, holes within the statue have created issues for owners, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers alike, that wind up being additional matters over which to litigate. New proposed amendments to Chapter 588, however, will seek to address some of the problems by affording greater protections to contractors and imparting greater responsibility on property owners for their claims.
Chapter 558, in its current form, requires owners to provide notice to contractors and an opportunity for contractors to inspect alleged defects before an owner may bring or continue a lawsuit for construction defects. However, issues have arisen over what constitutes compliance, as well as the failure of any significant consequences due to owners’ noncompliance. Notices submitted under Chapter 558 are often being challenged as ambiguous, lacking support, and/or incomplete and subject to change. As a result, a mechanism which was designed to reduce lawsuits in court winds up leading to additional litigation, and as a consequence, a rise in legal costs for almost any party who participated in the construction. The proposed amendments to Chapter 558 may help prevent these situations by reworking the requirements for a claim, including a requirement that claimants specifically indicate locations of each alleged defect, along with the specific building code provisions that are being violated or reference to the portion of the plans and specifications that weren’t complied with.
The Chapter 558 amendments are also aimed at reducing frivolous claims by calling for sanctions, including attorney fees, if the claim is unfounded or previously resolved. The amendments would also require consideration of the claimant’s own actions in creating or exacerbating an alleged defect, by calling for disclosure of maintenance records and other documents to aid in investigating the cause of the alleged defects.
While the jury is out as to the effectiveness of the changes, it appears that the aim of these amendments is to continue to attempt reduce costly litigation and encourage settlement through confidential negotiations.
As the laws affecting our clients in continue to change, it’s important to have legal assistance and/or representation which can give you effective and efficient solutions. If you’re facing a construction defect claim, or believe you have one, consider contacting the attorneys at Benson, Mucci & Weiss, P.L. Our team of construction lawyers in Broward County represent clients in South Florida and throughout the state, and strive to stay updated on changes to the law that may make all the difference.