Florida’s construction industry has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it is newly constructed homes or renovations to existing homes, the construction industry has weathered the need for residential construction with surprising strength. However, the boom of new construction projects has accompanied an uptick in litigation concerning construction problems, such as design defects, poor workmanship and code violations.
What is a Chapter 558 Notice?
Florida’s Legislature enacted Chapter 558 (“Ch. 588”), known as the construction defect statute, to promote communication between the parties and potentially resolve disputes without the need for litigation to combat the marked increase in court filings.
A property owner alleging a construction defect must provide the contractor, subcontractor, supplier, design professional, and others with written notification of the alleged defect(s) at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit, describing that defect in “reasonable detail.”
Upon receipt of a Ch. 558 Notice, contractors may forward “downstream” notices to subcontractors, suppliers or design professionals whom it reasonably believes is responsible for each defect specified in the notice of claim, noting the specific defect and party responsible.
What qualifies as a construction defect?
A “construction defect” is defined by Florida Statute 558 as any deficiency arising from the construction of a property from the installation of defective material; the work performed results in building code violations; and/or the property’s design is flawed or deviates from the industry standards.
What happens after a contractor receives a Ch. 558 Notice?
When a contractor, supplier, subcontractor, or design professional receives a notice of claim from a property owner, they must perform certain obligations promptly.
Within thirty (30) days after service of the notice of claim (or within fifty (50) days in association cases), the person served with the notice of claim may perform a reasonable inspection to assess each alleged construction defect.
The property owner asserting the claim must give the contractor reasonable access to the property to inspect the property and determine the nature and cause of the alleged construction defect and the nature and extent of any necessary repairs.
What if a property owner requires emergency repairs?
Suppose, for example, a property owner suffers a construction defect such as a roof leak that impacts the home’s habitability. Ch. 558 allows the property owner to make necessary emergency repairs to the property to protect their health, safety and welfare.
What should be included in a contractor’s response to a Ch. 558 notice?
Within 45 days after service of the Ch. 558 notice, a contractor must serve a written response to the aggrieved property owner. The written response must provide either:
- A written offer to remedy the alleged construction defect at no cost to the claimant, a detailed description of the proposed repairs necessary to remedy the defect, and a timetable for the completion of such repairs;
- A written offer to compromise and settle the claim by monetary payment that will not obligate the person’s insurer, and a timetable for making payment;
- A written offer to compromise and settle the claim by a combination of repairs and monetary payment; and/or
- A written statement that the person disputes the claim and will not remedy the defect or compromise and settle the claim.
A property owner who received a settlement offer would then have 45 days to accept or reject the offer by serving a written notice to the contractor.
Should a contractor deny the allegations or simply not respond, a property owner is free to proceed with a lawsuit, assuming 60 days has passed.
Assistance is available
Property owners and contractors having questions or needing assistance regarding construction defect-related issues, may reach me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 239-344-1105.