It’s been several years since you completed a construction job, and now the homeowner is contacting you about a defect. Are you responsible for any problems that appear long after the job is complete?
As a contractor, it is important to know the laws and regulations governing construction defect claims in Florida. These laws can significantly impact your business, so it’s essential to understand what they are and how they work.
Construction defects and latent defects
Construction defects and latent defects are related yet distinct issues. A construction defect generally refers to deficiencies found in the materials or workmanship used during a building project, such as poor-quality materials resulting in safety hazards or a lack of proper waterproofing leading to leaks. These issues arise from substandard craftsmanship and can usually be identified quickly.
Latent defects, by contrast, refer to problems embedded within the building structure that may go undiscovered for much longer periods of time, such as structural damage caused by shifting foundations or faulty plumbing systems.
A homeowner has four years from the completion date to notify the contractor of a construction defect. However, latent defects may take longer to appear, so they have a 10-year statute of limitations.
Florida law states that the claimant must give the contractor 60 days’ notice before filing a claim. The contractor then has 45 days to provide a written response that may offer one of the following:
- An offer to fix the problem at no cost to the claimant, along with a list of what repairs will need to be done.
- A compromise where the contractor offers a monetary settlement to the claimant
- A dispute of the claim and refusal to fix it
- A statement that the contractor’s insurer will determine payment.
The claimant must either accept or reject the offer. If the contractor disputes the claim, the claimant may file a lawsuit. However, if the contractor repairs the problem or the claimant accepts a monetary offer, the claimant is not allowed to pursue the claim any further.