On January 24, 2023, SB 360 was introduced in the Florida Senate, which proposed changes to Florida Statutes, Sections 95.11 and 553.84. The bill shortens the timeframes in which a property owner may bring a cause of action against a builder for alleged construction defects and narrows the scope of statutory civil actions against builders for alleged violations of the Florida Building Code. The bill passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, on March 15, 2023, and March 24, 2023, respectively, and was approved by Governor Ron DeSantis on April 13, 2023.
Summary of Proposed Changes
- The statute of repose on actions based on latent construction defects is shortened from 10 years to 7 years;
- The date of actual possession by a property owner is no longer an event that commences the statute of limitations or statute of repose on actions based on patent or latent construction defects;
- An event commencing the statute of limitations or statute of repose for actions based on patent or latent construction defects is no longer limited to the date a certificate of occupancy is issued, but now includes the date a temporary certificate of occupancy, a certificate of occupancy, or a certificate of completion is issued;
- The date of completion or termination of a contract between a professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer is no longer a date commencing the statute of limitations or statute of repose for actions based on patent or latent construction defects;
- The statute of limitations and the statute of repose on actions based on patent or latent construction defects no longer begin to run on the latest of any listed commencement date, but rather, will run on whichever date is earliest;
- The terminology referencing the authority issuing the certificates of occupancy or completion is updated to be consistent with current practices of such issuance;
- The commencement date of the statute of limitations or statute of repose for an action based on a patent or latent construction defect of a newly constructed single-dwelling home that was used as a model home begins to run from the date the deed first transferring title to another party is recorded;
- When the improvement of real property includes multiple buildings, each building must be considered its own improvement for purposes of the applicable limitations period; and
- Recovery for a violation of the Florida Building Code is limited to “material violations,” which are now defined as “a Florida Building Code violation that exists within a completed building, structure, or facility which 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 amendments to the statute of limitations and statute of repose for patent or latent construction defects became effective immediately upon the bill being signed into law, on April 13, 2023, regardless of when the cause of action accrued. However, any action that would not have been barred by the statute of limitations, or statute or repose, prior to July 1, 2023, must be commenced by July 1, 2024. This ensures that claimants have at least one year from the effective date of the enacted amendments to initiate a construction defect action. If the action is not commenced by July 1, 2024, and the amendments will bar the action, then the action is barred.
The changes introduced by SB 360 are expected to have implications for both property owners and builders involved in cases concerning patent or latent construction defects. Property owners will have a reduced timeframe to identify such defects and initiate legal action against builders for violations of the Florida Building Code. Builders may find certain considerations in the shorter period for which they can be held liable for construction defect actions, particularly in cases where improvements are made outside of their control or when differentiating between construction defects and maintenance issues is challenging. No matter if you are a property owner or builder, please be aware to preserve all claims and defenses in a timely manner. We look forward to assisting you on addressing how this law will impact your current projects.