If the intended purpose of Chapter 558 (aka Florida’s Construction Defect statute) is to reduce litigation and provide an opportunity to resolve construction defect claims pre-suit, the statute has woefully failed at its objective. The current pre-suit process under Chapter 558 is fairly easy to comply with, but rarely results in a resolution. Instead, the outcome is generally a multi-party lawsuit involving every contractor, subcontractor, supplier and design professional who set foot on the construction project. Such litigation is costly and time consuming, and generally difficult to advance given the significant number of parties, adjusters, attorneys and experts who inevitably become involved. The Florida legislature’s proposed changes to Chapter 558, as reflected in Senate Bill 270/House Bill 21, aim to make the pre-suit process more effective and limit this type of litigation by requiring property owners to provide added transparency and fully vet their claims before filing suit.
There are several significant changes to the statute which fall on the claimant. First, under the proposed amendment, before sending a notice of claim, a property owner must exhaust any applicable warranty claims. This change makes sense and is consistent with the statute’s goal of facilitating quick and cost-efficient resolutions. If there is a valid warranty for a component of work that is arguably defective, the property owner should pursue that avenue prior to expending time, money, and judicial resources to resolve the issue—just as the 558 statute intends.