Although you work with integrity and complete projects on time, construction defects and construction defect claims can still occur. A construction defect is any flaw in the design, workmanship, or materials of a structure which results in a failure of one or more of the structure’s components. These can happen at any time during a project and can be a serious issue for your firm.
During a construction project, an attorney from one of the best Tallahassee construction law firms can discuss how they regularly protect construction professionals against these types of claims. It’s important to try to prevent construction defects as you work; however, if someone accuses you of a construction defect, you should immediately contact an attorney to discuss your rights and to protect your assets.
Chapter 558: Florida Defect Statute
Construction defects are covered in Florida Statutes Chapter 558, which governs the specifics of resolving construction and design defects found in commercial and residential projects unless parties have opted out of the requirements. The statute allows parties to cure defects before seeking a lawsuit by setting forth requirements for notifying responsible parties of defects. It’s essential to have an attorney on your side who is well-versed in Chapter 558 and prepared to defend you against wrongful accusations of defects made in bad faith.
What Is a Construction Defect?
Construction and design defects are often found in both residential and commercial projects after a project’s completion. When these defects are discovered, owners may threaten their contractor with a lawsuit. However, owners must follow certain procedures before they can file a lawsuit for damages. Likewise, contractors that are allegedly liable for defects have legal options and rights. Construction defect law in Florida covers the procedures, rights, and responsibilities of all parties and can be found in the Florida Statutes, Chapter 558.
Within the definition of construction defects, there are a few different types of defects, including:
- Patent Defects: In some cases, the construction defects are completely visible to the naked eye, for example, water seepage from the pipes that show on the walls. These visible defects are known as patent defects.
- Latent Defects: In other cases, construction defects are less visible and can go undetected for years. These defects are known as latent defects.
Construction Defect Causes
There are many different factors that can cause a patent or latent construction defect. A defect can be caused by just one factor or a combination of several. Some factors that lead to construction defects are:
- Improper site preparation
- Poor workmanship
- Defective materials/equipment
- Poor site selection
Construction defects can be the fault of a subcontractor or third party, but may still be brought against the general contractor on the project. Legal representation is important when facing a potential dispute or claim of any type, but especially with regard to construction defects and liability.
Construction defects require the claimant, or property owner, to “serve written notice of claim on the contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or design professional, as applicable” prior to filing an action. The notice of the claim must detail “the nature of each construction defect and if known, the damage or loss resulting from the defect.” These claims could occur weeks or even years after a construction project has concluded; however, Florida has a strict statute of limitations on when a construction defect claim can be filed. Tallahassee construction attorneys will discuss the course of action required when you are accused of a defect.
Tips to Reduce the Risk of Defect Disputes
In order to reduce the risk of construction defect disputes, there are a few simple steps you can take during any given project. Although these steps are not the only ones you can take to protect yourself, these should be the first steps in any project.
Clearly Define Who is Responsible for Each Aspect of a Project
Make sure that it’s clear who is responsible for each portion of a project. This can help assign responsibility should another contractor or subcontractor be responsible for the defect and can protect against improper claims.
Only Use a Trusted Source for Materials
The materials used during any construction project should come from only trusted sources. Although there may be less expensive materials available, make sure to discuss these materials with the property owner to avoid any disputes on the materials used.
Consult an Attorney Before a Project Begins
Before a project begins, consult a Tallahassee construction lawyer to discuss all contracts and address various ways to avoid construction defects. If you have been accused of a defect, an attorney will help you defend against untoward accusations. Should an accusation of a defect result in a lawsuit, your legal counsel will discuss your rights and will provide experienced and sound legal advice to navigate mediation, arbitration, litigation, and any possible settlements. They will also negotiate if you are expected to provide repairs or redo any of the work provided. In short, legal counsel will be in your corner advising you every step of the way.
Cotney Construction Law’s experienced attorneys will provide sound legal advice to construction professionals at every level and can assist your firm with any construction need. Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide a myriad of other valuable services for construction businesses, including contract review, employment law advice, and litigation and arbitration services. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, permitting issues, stop-work orders, business immigration, and more.
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.