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Florida legislature extends deadline for certain construction defect claims

Construction defect claims, like virtually all legal claims, have deadlines. You can't wait 30 years to bring a defect claim against a builder who may no longer be in business.

Under Florida law, a defect claim based on problems with the design, planning or construction of a new building or improvement must generally be brought within four years. This time period starts at the latest date when:

  • The owner takes possession of the property.
  • A certificate of occupancy is issued.
  • The construction project is abandoned.
  • The contract between the engineer, architect or contractor and their employer is either completed or terminated.

Sometimes, however, defects go overlooked. They might not surface until years later, even with a prompt and diligent inspection. In that case, the deadline is ten years rather than four.

Extension of deadline

The 2018 amendment, effective July 1st, extends the 4- and 10-year deadlines by one year for:

  • Cross-claims (claims between defendants)
  • Counter-claims (claims against the plaintiff)
  • Third-party claims (claims against others who are not yet party to the lawsuit)

These claims must be filed within one year after service of the initial pleading. So long as they meet this deadline, they're still valid even if the 4- or 10-year time frame has already run.

What this means for defect claims

The extension gives defendants in construction defect lawsuits (typically general contractors and developers) additional time to investigate the claim and, if warranted, bring claims against others who may be responsible. However, the extension can mean additional delays for an already lengthy litigation process. For plaintiffs seeking swift recovery, resolution outside of court may be a preferable option. A knowledgeable construction law attorney can offer guidance on possible courses of action.