News & Insights

Florida Passes New Construction Defect Statute

On April 13, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 360 (Chapter 2023-22, Laws of Florida). The new Florida law affects claims against design professionals in many ways.

First, Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)(c) establishes a new statute of repose for design defect claims. SB 360 leaves intact the four-year statute of limitations, but shortens the statute of repose from 10 to 7 years for latent defects.  

SB 360 also eliminates certain trigger events for the statute of repose.  The date of actual possession by the owner, the date of completion, and the termination of the design or construction contract have been removed as statutory triggers. The milestones for the statute of repose to accrue are now the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy (“TCO”), certificate of occupancy (“CO”), certificate of completion (“CC”); or the date of abandonment of construction if not completed.  SB 360 clarifies the period will begin to run from the earliest of the foregoing three events.  SB 360 further states that if a TCO, CO, or CC is issued, warranty or service work performed within the scope of the building permit, will not toll the statutes of limitation or repose.

Under the previous version of Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)(c), there were many factual disputes as to when an owner or association took possession of the property, or when an actual contract was completed. Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)(c) now removes the likelihood of disputes over those issues, since the issuance of a TCO, CO, or CC is established with certainty in the public record.

Finally, SB 360 addresses some specific unique concerns which affect the home building industry, such as the sale of a model home. Home builders will often obtain a certificate of occupancy for a model home, which is later sold to a homeowner.  For model homes, the limitations and repose periods does not begin to run until the date of the deed transferring title to the first purchaser. Also, for multi-building projects like sets of townhomes or apartments, SB 360 provides the limitations and repose periods begin to run on a building–by-building basis, upon each building receiving a TCO, CO, or CC.

SB 360 applies to all design defect actions filed on or after April 13, 2023. However, because these changes shorten the manner in which the limitations periods are calculated, the new law allows until July 1, 2024, to file claims that would not have been time barred under the old version of Fla. Stat. §95.11(3)(c), but would have been time-barred by the amendment.  This will likely lead to many lawsuits being filed between now and the deadline next year.