- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 360 into law, changing timeframes and requirements for property owners to file lawsuits against builders for construction defects in Florida.
- The bill shortens the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit from ten years to seven years and specifies that each individual dwelling in a project with multiple buildings will be considered separately for determining the limitations period.
- The legislation also defines a “material defect” as a violation of the Florida Building Code that causes physical harm or significant damage to a building’s performance or systems. It also imposes fines on builders for failure to rectify material violations.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 360 into law late Thursday night, bringing changes to the timeframes and requirements for property owners to file lawsuits against builders for construction defects.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Travis Hutson, aims to streamline the legal process by shortening the statute of limitations — the time period within which a property owner is legally permitted to file a lawsuit after discovering a construction defect — from ten years to seven years.
The measure also specifies that each individual dwelling in a project with multiple buildings, such as an apartment complex or condo building, is to be considered as its own improvement for determining the limitations period, meaning that the statute of limitations and statute of repose will be calculated separately for each building, rather than applying to the entire project as a whole.
“[This bill] addresses the rise in the cost of new construction,” said Rep. John Snyder, whose identical companion bill cleared the House of Representatives in late March. “As we work to bring further supply into the market to address the demand that we’re experiencing in Florida. We are lowering the statute of repose from ten years to seven years, we are clarifying when the clock starts on that statute of repose, and defining what constitutes a material defect.”
Through the ambit of the bill, a ‘material defect’ is legally defined as “a violation of the Florida Building Code that pertains to a completed building, structure, or facility, capable of, or having caused, physical harm to individuals or significant damage to the building’s performance or systems.” The penalty for defective construction remains in alignment with prior legislation, entailing a fine of $500 to $5,000 imposed on a builder for failure to rectify a material violation within a reasonable timeframe, according to a legislative analysis.
The amendment to the statute of limitations plays into the larger efforts to enact tort reform in Florida. House Bill 837, a major legislative package that imposes limitations on lawsuits to make it more difficult for Floridians to take legal action against insurance companies was signed by DeSantis last month.
The legislation, upon enforcement, will alter Florida’s comparative negligence system – which determines fault in personal injury cases – by introducing a “modified” system. Under the new system, plaintiffs who are mostly responsible for their own injuries won’t be able to recover damages from others as easily, except for medical negligence cases. The bill also aims to provide clearer standards for calculating medical damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Additionally, the bill introduces modifications to Florida’s “bad faith” framework, which holds insurance companies accountable for acting “unfairly” towards their policyholders. The new law allows insurers to avoid third-party bad faith liability if they pay out the policy limits or the amount demanded by the claimant within 120 days of receiving notice of the claim.