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Andrew Dector published in Sun-Sentinel

Firm Shareholder Andrew Dector breaks down the issues in this Op Ed from the Sun-Sentinel.


As Floridians endure another hurricane season and its potential impact on homes, buildings and other structures, Florida property owners should be aware of recent changes in Florida law that could leave them exposed if they are not adequately insured or insured at all.  Such changes were enacted to give the construction industry a boost and help reduce insurance claims, which is why it is so important for all those impacted to know the details.

Florida Statutes §95.11, the Florida Statute of Limitations, was recently amended to reduce the time to file a claim for negligence to two years. Moreover, as it relates to construction, the deadline to file a claim arising out of the design, planning or construction of an improvement to real property is four years, but the time runs from “the date the authority having jurisdiction issues a temporary certificate of occupancy, a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of completion, or the date of abandonment of construction if not completed, whichever date is earliest, except that when the action involves a latent defect, the time runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence. In any event, the action must be commenced within seven years after the date the authority having jurisdiction issues a temporary certificate of occupancy, a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of completion, or the date of abandonment of construction if not completed, whichever date is earliest.”   This means that property owners now have less time to file a claim than they did after previous storms.

Under the revised law, Florida property owners should immediately determine and pursue any construction-related claim(s) as the time to proceed is likewise no longer based upon the date of occupancy. Additionally, with respect to latent defects, which refers to damage that is not apparent or is hidden from plain view, the time to file a claim has been reduced from 10 years to seven years.

Anyone who has been in Florida since Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Miami-Dade County on August 24, 1992, can appreciate the impact this change will have on claims against developers, contractors and others engaged in the construction industry.  One community that those who resided in Florida at the time of Hurricane Andrew will recall is Country Walk in South Miami-Dade County. During Hurricane Andrew, the homes in that community suffered systemic and catastrophic damage due to shoddy workmanship, which was not exposed until after the storm had passed. After the storm, due to the nature of the damage, the owners sued the developer and contractors and were able to recover substantial sums to compensate them for their losses for extensive latent defects that were exposed by the storm. Due to the change in the law, if many of those same actions were filed today, they would not survive due to the reduced limitations periods.

Another major change to the law impacting construction defect claims is Florida Statutes §553.84, which governs the time to assert a claim under the Florida Building Code. Previously, the statute set no parameters as to the extent of the violation, but the recent changes could substantially limit the claims that can be asserted due to the requirement that any violation be material. In other words, as the revised law states, the violation “may reasonably result or has resulted in physical harm to a person or significant damage to the performance of a building or its systems.”

While the changes to these laws were intended to reduce litigation and benefit Florida’s insurance market, when put into practice, they could actually have the opposite effect.  First, there will be fact questions as to when the limitations period expired. Second, under the Florida Building Code, there will be disputes as to when a violation is material.  Whenever a factual issue is subject to dispute, as it will most certainly be with these changes, litigation is bound to follow.

For those owning homes or other property in Florida, it is important to be cognizant of how their property was constructed and maintained. At a minimum, there should be no delay in thoroughly investigating any suspected issues, and if necessary, claims should be pursued sooner rather than later. As for developers and contractors, defending such claims on the grounds that they are time barred or not material will likely become easier.


Andrew M. Dector is a Shareholder at Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Hermann, P.A. in Boca Raton. He represents clients in construction and commercial litigation in both state and federal courts and in arbitration and mediation. He may be reached at


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