The Florida Legislature’s 2015 Regular Session is complete.  This blog addresses the bills, which passed, that we think have the greatest impact on the construction industry.  We provide the highlights for each bill, in no particular order:

House Bill 87 – Construction Defect Claim Notice

Passed the Legislature:  April 24, 2015

Governor Action:  Pending

To be Effective:  October 1, 2015

HB 87 has two effects:  (i) it changes the current procedures for filing a ch. 558 construction defect claim notice, and (ii) clarifies when the warranty period commences for condominiums and cooperatives.

As to the latter effect, Section 718.203 and Section 719, 203, Florida Statutes, are revised to define that a “temporary” certificate of occupancy can constitute the completion of a building and, thus, start the warranty period.

HB 87 makes somewhat drastic changes to Chapter 558, Florida Statutes, which regulates the notice and cure procedures for construction defect claims.   The most important changes are as follows:

  • A defect claimant’s notice must identify the location of each defect sufficient to enable the responding party to locate the alleged defects without undue burden.
  • A claimant must make at least a visual inspection of the defects before serving notice. However, a claimant is not required to perform destructive or other testing prior to making the claim.
  • Adds the following documents to the list of documents that must be exchanged upon request:
    • Maintenance records; and
    • Other documents related to the discovery, investigation, causation, and extent of the alleged defects and resulting damage.
  • Provides that a party does not have to disclose privileged documents.

House Bill 1151 – Residential Master Building Permit Program

Passed the Legislature:  April 27, 2015

Governor Action:  Pending

To be Effective:  July 1, 2015

HB 1151 creates a new statute, Section 553.794, Florida Statutes, which creates a residential master building permit program.  The program is intended for builders who expect to construct identical single-family homes or townhomes on a repetitive basis.  The program is designed to achieve standardization in permitting and reduce the time spent by building departments in the review process.  Some predict that instituting the program will result in faster permit review times for all builders, not just tract-home builders, and streamline development which could result in increased private economic activity.  Let’s hope so.

Section 553.794 sets forth the numerous requirements for the program, but here are a few highlights:

  • The master building permit application must contain, among other things, a “general construction plan” for the model design, which may include up to four alternate exterior elevations, each containing the same living space footprint.
  • The building department must approve or deny the master building permit application within 120 days.
  • A master building permit remains valid until a new Florida Building Code is adopted.
  • Once the master permit is approved, some revisions are allowed, including limited nonstructural and field revisions, but no structural revisions are allowed.
  • After obtaining a master permit, the builder submits “site-specific building permit applications” for each lot. The site-specific permit application process is streamlined and only requires:
    • A permit application, which references the master permit and identifies the model to be built;
    • Lot survey or site plan;
    • An affidavit by the engineer of record affirming that the lot conforms to the master permit; and
    • Complete mechanical drawings of the model design, with load calculations and specifications, along with any specific information that was not included in the master permit.
  • There are severe penalties for abusing the program (e.g. building a home that does not conform to the master permit). A builder who willfully violates the program will be fined $10,000 per occurrence.

Senate Bill 778 – Local Contractor Preferences

Signed Into Law by Governor:  May 21, 2015

Effective:  July 1, 2015

SB 778 creates a new statute, Section 255.0991, Florida Statutes.  This new statute prohibits local governments from giving a preference to local contractors in construction bidding in which 50% or more of the project cost will be paid from state-appropriated funds.  The statute does not prohibit such preferences if less than 50% of the cost will be paid from state-appropriated funds.

House Bill 217 – Structural Engineers

Passed the Legislature:  April 24, 2015

Governor Action:  Pending

To be Effective:  July 1, 2015

HB 217 amends Chapter 471, Florida Statutes, which regulates engineering.  The bill creates a new license type for “structural engineers.”  Here are the highlights of the bill:

  • Beginning March 1, 2017, no one other than a licensed structural engineer may practice structural engineering or use the title “licensed structural engineer.”
  • “Structural engineering” is defined as structural analysis and design of threshold buildings (as defined in Stat. 553.71(12)).
  • In order to qualify for licensure as a structural engineer, an applicant must:
    • meet the current qualifications to become an engineer;
    • have four years of structural engineering experience under the supervision of a licensed engineer; and
    • pass a nationally-recognized 16-hour structural engineering examination.
  • There is a grandfathering provision for qualified engineers that apply prior to September 1, 2016, which exempts them from taking the examination.
  • Someone can be both an engineer and a structural engineer.

Senate Bill 466 – Low-Voltage Alarm Systems

Signed Into Law by Governor:  May 21, 2015

Effective:  July 1, 2015

SB 466 revises Section 553.793, Florida Statutes, which regulates the permitting of low-voltage alarm systems.  There are three major changes:

  • Permits are no longer required for wireless burglar alarm and smoke detector installation, maintenance, inspection, replacement, or servicing.
  • The maximum permit fee for hardwired low-voltage alarm systems is reduced from $55.00 to $40.00, and local enforcement agencies may no longer require additional fees.
  • Local enforcement agencies may now coordinate inspections directly with the owner or customer of low-voltage alarm systems to ensure compliance with applicable codes and standards; the contractor is still responsible for correcting any non-compliant installation.