Like virtually every other state, Florida’s legislature has imposed time limits on bringing actions for construction defects. These time limits are known as the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. Understanding the difference between these two time periods is crucial for anyone engaged in the construction business and anyone who thinks they have a claim for a defect in design or construction of an improvement to real property.
What is the statute of limitations?
The statute of limitation of actions founded on an alleged defect in the design, planning or construction of an improvement to real property is four fears from the date of actual possession by the owner or from the date of an issuance of the certificate of occupancy. If an action is not commenced within the four-year time period, it is forever barred.
What is the statute of repose?
As enacted by most states, a statute of repose is a statute that bars all claims of whatever nature within a specified period after the completion of the improvement at issue. Unlike most states, Florida does not have a specific statute of repose. Instead, it bars all claims resulting from “latent defects” if the claim is not made within ten years after the discovery of the defect or the date on which the defect reasonably should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence. The statute also provides that “in any event,” the action must be commenced within ten years from the various events identified in the statute.
The Florida courts have struggled mightily to define terms such as “substantial completion,” “latent defect” and due diligence. Their work has not been made easier by the number of amendments to the statute made by the legislature in the last ten years.
Anyone who has a construction defect claim that arose outside either the four- or ten-year periods should seek the advice of an attorney experienced in construction law. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide helpful advice and a useful opinion on whether the claim may be barred.