Knowing the applicable deadlines for bringing a construction warranty claim can make the difference between a win and a loss. Generally, a person has 4 years to bring a warranty claim in Florida, although there are exceptions and other rules that may come into play depending on the actual circumstances surrounding the claim.
Claims based on construction defects must be brought within 4 years of one of the following, whichever is latest: actual possession by owner, date of issuance of certificate of occupancy, date of abandonment of construction (if project not completed), or date of completion or termination of contract. Many of these defects are latent – hidden or concealed such that they are not apparent from routine inspection, for example, a leaky roof. In cases based on latent defects, the discovery rule applies – owners must file suit within 4 years of the date the defect is discovered or should have been discovered.
In addition, Florida requires any claim based on the design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property to be brought within 10 years. Called the “statute of repose”, the 10-year limit is an absolute bar to filing a claim regardless of the cause of action. Since construction claims can arise decades after a project’s completion, the statute serves to limit the time in which claims can be brought.
Finally, a common source of confusion is the 1-year repair or “callback” period in standard construction contracts. This is a contract provision that requires the owner to notify the contractor of a defect and provide that contractor an opportunity to fix or repair his work. If the owner fails to provide this notice, or hires another contractor, the owner cannot charge the original contractor the cost of these repairs. Some mistake the repair period for the general 1-year warranty on construction work, after which the owner cannot bring a claim. This is not the case. The callback period is simply a chance to fix or repair defective work, but it does not prevent the owner from bringing other warranty claims that may arise.