Contractors continue to see an increase in the number of 558 notices they’re receiving. These are those demands made under Chapter 558 of Florida Statutes setting forth pre-suit procedures on construction defect cases. Even though the law has been in place for some time, there are few decisions available explaining how the statute really works, especially if someone doesn’t strictly comply.
When homeowners, unhappy with the quality of work done, withheld final payment from their contractor, they were sued. One issue before the court was whether the contractor was afforded the opportunity to repair what the homeowners found to be unacceptable. The homeowners did give the contractor the required 558 notice but then denied the contractor access to the interior of the residence so he might cure the defects. The statute requires a claimant, in this case the homeowner, who receives a timely settlement offer to either accept or reject it within 45 days. If suit is filed without first accepting or rejecting the offer, the court must abate the suit upon a timely motion being filed. While the homeowners’ failure to allow the contractor access could be interpreted as a rejection of the contractor’s offer to repair, the court in this case did not take away the homeowners’ right to seek a set-off for the value of any repairs needed to remedy the contractor’s poor workmanship – a seemingly unfair result which calls into question the real effectiveness of this statute. That said, it remains clear that contractors need to be especially careful to continue to comply with all stated deadlines and do their part in adhering to this law.