Since the end of last year, Florida lawmakers have significantly altered the state’s civil litigation landscape. In a December 2022 special session, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 2A, which made sweeping changes to the regulation of insurance companies, the property insurance claims process, reinsurance and more. Just a few weeks ago, Governor DeSantis signed HB 837, further reforming civil litigation in the state of Florida.
Now, Florida’s legislative reform is extending to the area of Construction Law with Senate Bill 360. Governor DeSantis has approved the bill and submitted the legislation to the Secretary of State to Chapter. Senate Bill 360 will drastically impact the time and course associated with Construction Defect Litigation in Florida.
Below we provide a brief outline of the key components of this new legislation.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS. Fla. Stat. § 95.11 (3)
The statute of limitations for real property-based litigation remains 4 years. The date from which the statute of limitations begins to run is revised so that it begins to run on the earliest of the following:
Note that actions which would have “not been barred” under the statute of limitations prior to the effective date of the change of statute of limitations may be filed until July 1, 2024, with the old statute of limitations applied.
Also, in the case of a latent defect, the statute of limitations is unchanged and begins to run from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered.
CONSTRUCTION STATUTE OF REPOSE. Fla. Stat. § 95.11 (3)(c)
The statute of repose, which limits time in which “an action founded on design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property” must be commenced is reduced from 10 years to 7 years.
Like the statute of limitations, the date from which the statute of repose begins to run is revised so that it begins to run on the earliest of the following:
Note that the one-year extension for bringing counterclaims, cross-claims, and third-party claims remains.
MODEL HOMES. Fla. Stat. § 95.11 (3)(c)
If a newly constructed single-dwelling residential building is used as a model home in an anticipated community, time begins to run from the date on which a deed is recorded first transferring title to another party.
MULTI-DWELLING BUILDINGS. Fla. Stat. § 95.11 (3)(c)
Community Developments/HOA’s in Florida are no longer considered a whole; each building must be considered its own for purposes of determining the limitations period. Thus, the statute may have run for earlier built and move in ready homes, but the owners of subsequent completed buildings within the community may still have a cause of action.
MATERIAL VIOLATION. Fla. Stat. § 553.84
Litigation brought under Fla. Stat. 553, which provides a statutory civil action for building code violations, is amended to require that such an action be based on a “material violation” of the Florida Building Code (“FBC”). A “material violation” is now defined as a FBC violation that exists within a “completed building, structure, or facility with may reasonably result, or has resulted, in physical harm to a person or significant damage to the performance of a building or its systems.” The essential elements to a “material violation” are: completion, physical harm, and significant damage.
We expect that Senate Bill 360 will affect construction defect litigation throughout Florida. As we look ahead, here is some of what we expect:
We understand the uncertainty brought about by legislative changes. Chartwell Law’s highly experienced construction law attorneys are available to answer any questions regarding these changes and resulting litigation concerns in Florida. Please do not hesitate to contact us.