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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:

1. Not acting quickly enough

Florida law sets strict deadlines for taking legal action when it comes to construction defects. Depending on the circumstances, the clock might start ticking after a certain number of units have been sold, after turnover occurs, or after the defect comes to light. Even if the defect isn't discovered for years, however, there's an overarching 10-year time limit from the completion of construction (according to the technical definition outlined in the statute).

By waiting too long, associations may end up losing out on valuable legal rights - resulting in substantial costs to owners and, potentially, personal liability of the directors.

2. Not speaking with a qualified attorney

This is the first step associations should take when they suspect they've found a construction defect. However, not just any attorney will do. You need a lawyer who understands the nuances of Florida construction defect law - a complex area. The attorney should also have experience handling these defects in the context of common elements within condo communities or residential developments. They should be familiar with the local construction industry, know qualified engineers or other experts to assist in the investigation, and they should have a respected reputation within the legal community.

3. Not involving the right construction experts

Just as choosing the right lawyer is critical for a successful construction defect case, so, too, is choosing the right expert. Depending on the nature of the defect, you might need to involve an engineer, architect, tradesperson or other qualified professionals. A lawyer who's well-connected in the industry can help you enlist qualified experts to make a strong case.

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