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Legal Blog

Mold and mildew can turn a dream condo into a nightmare

When you move into a new condo in Florida, you're looking forward to years of living in warmth near beaches, water sports, golf courses and more. You're eager to enjoy maintenance-free living - especially when it comes to upkeep of the building and grounds. That's probably why you bought the condominium in the first place.

But when construction defects begin to make themselves evident, everything can change. Carefree living can turn into a bad dream - a nightmare that costs a fortune to repair.

3 mistakes associations make with construction defects

When construction defects are found in common elements of a condo or residential development, it falls to the owners association to do something about it. In fact, it's one of the most important duties that associations have - to protect the interests of owners by bringing legal claims on their behalf.

Unfortunately, many associations aren't familiar enough with construction defects to take the right action. Even professionally managed associations can quickly get in over their heads when it comes to navigating these complex legal issues.

Once a potential construction defect comes to light, it's important to know what to do - and not to do. Here are three common mistakes to avoid:

How Florida's extension of construction defect deadline could play out

Regular readers of our legal blog know that back in March, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill to extend the Statute of Repose. The statute is, of course, the ultimate deadline for latent construction defect claims. Some observers believe the extension will result in higher insurance premiums for developers, contractors and the real estate industry.

The extension essentially increased the 10-year deadline to file a lawsuit for a latent construction defect claim by a year. But, in some cases, the extension could be for longer than a year.

What steps should associations take when construction defects come to light?

Construction defects can be a huge headache for property owners associations. While Florida law provides a process for holding the right parties accountable, it can be tricky to navigate that process with all its deadlines and procedural requirements. That's why it's so important for associations to follow the right steps as soon as an issue comes to light.

So when your maintenance guy has just discovered an extensive mold problem, or the roof starts leaking across multiple units, or the balconies are starting to pull out from the exterior - it's time to take action.

When construction defects reach the sky

Well-traveled readers will be familiar with one of the most legendary building errors of all time: the picturesque white-marble bell tower in Tuscany, on Italy's west coast. While the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist attraction that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, its fate was never intended for another sky-reaching structure built centuries later: San Francisco's Millennium Tower.

The 58-story skyscraper tilts 14 inches to the northwest; the structure has also sunk 17 inches since its opening nearly a decade ago. Other construction defects are evident, including a giant crack in a 36th-floor window, strange odors, cracked walls, and "bubbling floors," as a recent news report put it.

How to choose the right expert in a construction defect case

Construction defect disputes often involve highly technical issues. This is especially true of those that end up in hotly contested, high-stakes litigation, since black-and-white cases tend to get settled early on.

Experts play a critical role in these cases. Jurors (and judges) typically have little to no experience in construction. And when seemingly minute details can make all the difference in cases such as these, it's no surprise that trial often turns into a battle of experts. Choosing the right expert is thus foundational to a successful case.

Latent vs. patent construction defects: What's the difference (and why does it matter)?

If you've ever had the misfortune of dealing with construction defects, you know what a headache they can be, particularly when they affect an entire condo or residential community. Such far-reaching defects can cost a fortune to fix.

You may have also heard the terms "patent" and "latent" in reference to defects. What exactly do these terms mean? And what do they mean for owners (and owners associations)?

"Crazing defect" means window replacement at new courthouse

An unusual situation in California illustrates how construction defects can impact virtually any aspect of the structure, whether residential or commercial. It involves downtown San Diego courthouse with bullet-resistant windows. The courthouse rose near the ocean more than a year late and at a cost of more than $550 million. Now, less than nine months after it opened, it needs a complete window replacement.

4 pitfalls associations should avoid when facing construction defects

Construction defects are costly problems for associations. Condos, townhomes and single-family developments are prone to defects from both the original construction and later renovations. When defects affect common elements, they become the responsibility - and the headache - of the association.

Getting compensation for these defects can be a lengthy and difficult process. You can make the road ahead smoother by watching out for these common pitfalls:

Florida ruling sheds light on statute of repose for construction defect claims

In Florida construction defect cases, you can't pursue compensation in court without first providing notice to the responsible parties. This notice - often referred to as "pre-suit notice" or "Chapter 558 notice," for its location in the Florida statutes - must be provided at least 60 days before a civil action can be filed. In cases involving housing associations of 20 or more parcels, the pre-suit notice must go out at least 120 days prior to filing a suit.

How does this notice impact filing deadlines?

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