Right now, you probably have enough on your plate without having to worry about being accused of a construction defect. But because project owners have four to ten years to make a claim, there’s always the chance of your company being accused of a construction defect. In this article, a Ft. Myers construction defect attorney with Cotney Construction Law will be taking an in-depth look at Florida’s right to repair laws. These common-sense laws afford contractors the opportunity to remedy construction defects before a claim has to be brought before a judge. It’s of the utmost importance that you familiarize yourself with the laws because no contractor wants to be blamed for a construction defect they didn’t create.
Florida’s Right to Repair Laws
The Sunshine State’s right to repair laws are outlined in Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes. “An effective alternative dispute resolution mechanism in certain construction defect matters should involve the claimant filing a notice of claim with the [accused party] that the claimant asserts is responsible for the defect, and should provide the [accused party] and the insurer of the [accused party] with an opportunity to resolve the claim through confidential settlement negotiations without resort to further legal process.” This is the basic principle behind Florida’s right to repair laws. If a defect is found, the accused party will have the opportunity to resolve the issue. Whether or not you decide to repair the defect or dispute the claim should be decided with the aid of a Ft. Myers construction defect lawyer.
Notice of Claim
Generally, an owner will have 60 days (120 in some instances) to provide a contractor with written notice of a construction defect before filing an action. This notice must accurately describe the nature of the defect, its location, and damages caused by the defect. Notice should be provided 15 days after discovery of the defect; however, the owner can still file a claim without giving notice, so long as they abide by the 60-day deadline. Although these rules apply to project owners, they’re important to remember because an owner may not file a claim without first complying with the requirements of Chapter 558.
Once a contractor has been notified, they will have 30 days (50 in some instances) to conduct an inspection to assess every defect. The project owner should provide the contractor with access to the property during normal waking hours, and it will be the contractor’s responsibility to coordinate the timing and manner of the inspection with the owner. Destructive testing can be performed, but both parties must agree to it.
Copy of Notice of Claim
Within 10 days (30 days in some instances) a contractor must provide a copy of the notice to the party they believe is reasonably responsible for the claim, whether that’s a contractor, subcontractor or material provider. For the sake of clarity, let’s say a subcontractor is accused of creating a defect. The subcontractor will then be able to perform an inspection as previously described.
Whether you were served the original notice of claim or a copy, you will have to provide a written response to the party who gave you notice. This written response may include one of the following:
- An offer to fix the defect at no cost to the owner
- An offer to pay for the cost of the construction defect
- An offer to both repair and pay for the defect
- A statement disputing the claim
- A statement saying that payment will be determined by their insurer
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve already conducted an inspection of a project with a defect and are wondering what to do next. And given the strict deadlines outlined in Chapter 558, you’ll have very little time to choose. You can offer to pay or remedy the defect, which the owner could still end up rejecting. Or you could dispute the claim, which will result in the owner moving forward with the defect claim. This is a precarious situation no matter how you look at it, and one wrong move could result in your company paying dearly for a defect it may have not been responsible for.
For Help Getting Through This Process
As you’ve read, this is an incredibly complicated process, especially when you consider that parties involved are given mere weeks to make decisions that could dramatically impact their company’s future. At Cotney Construction Law, our Ft. Myers construction attorneys are adept at navigating the entire claims process and can help ensure that you make the right decision for your company. Before you dispute a claim or exercise your right to repair, ask yourself if you could benefit from consulting an experienced construction attorney.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.