A bill in the Florida legislature that would reduce the state's "statute of repose" for construction defects from ten years to seven years is causing controversy in the Sunshine State. The First Coast News covers the story here (see: "Construction bill could reduce builder liability," by Anne Schindler). "House Member Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican, wants to reduce 'repose' – the time a home or building's owner can sue for a latent defect -- from 10 to 7 years. This comes after a similar reduction in 2006, from 15 to 10 years. Fant says the change is needed because builders are being hit with frivolous lawsuits."
First Coast News offers a counter-example to Fant's argument: the story of a Florida couple who discovered major construction defects in their home eight years after buying the house, who would be barred from suing if Fant's bill becomes law. And the paper quotes Republican lobbyist Fred Dudley's warning that the measure would also prevent public entities from suing private contractors for defective construction of public works. Said Dudley, "We're not just talking about single family homes, which is bad enough. … We're talking about every public building out there. Every hospital. Every public school. City Hall. How many of you have had courthouses that have had problems? Right! This bill will limit the ability of local governments to bring suits for those latent defects."
Writing in an Orlando Sentinel blog, attorney Patrick C. Howell argues that the shortened statute of repose would short-change homeowner and condo associations (see: "Legislative Meddling Could Have Dire Consequences for Florida HOAs and Condominiums," by Patrick C. Howell). Writes Howell, "As an example, let's take a community that received a certificate of completion for its roads and drainage system in October of 2005. The community 'turns over' to the non-developer owners in 2014, the HOA conducts an engineering study that reveals latent defects in and to the roads and drainage areas, and the HOA sues the developer and contractor for those defects in February of 2015. Under the current Statute of Repose, the Association would have filed its lawsuit within both the statute of limitations and the Statute of Repose, and could continue on with its claim. However, under the proposed changes, and even while the statute of limitations would not have run on the Association's claim, the Association's ability to sue for construction defects would have expired prior to even turning over from the developer!"