Front-Page Article in Yesterday’s Daily Business Review Features Insight from Firm’s Georg Ketelhohn on Concerns for Associations with Construction Defect, Claims Bills

GeorgKetelhohn.jpgWhen the Daily Business Review, the South Florida region’s only daily business newspaper, decided to report on the proposed bills at the start of this year’s legislative session that would impact construction defect claims for Florida community associations and property owners, it turned to the firm’s Georg Ketelhohn for his insights on the bills for the front-page story, which also featured his photograph. Georg, who wrote about the concerns for community associations with these bills in recent articles in this blog, served as one of the primary sources for the article, which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the newspaper and was titled “Construction Defect, Claims Bills Favor Contractors, Designers.”

The article focused on Georg’s views about the concerns for community associations with House Bill 87 and House Bill 501. It reads:

One of the most hotly debated proposals comes from Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, whose House Bill 501 would reduce the window for homeowners to file claims for latent defects against contractors, designers and planners.

Florida law allows homeowners four years after discovering a structural defect–or four years after they should have discovered the defect with due diligence–to bring a construction claim.

But also at play in the four-year statute of limitation is the statute of repose. That law expires 10 years after the owner takes possession of the property or completes the contract with an engineer, architect or contractor; a certificate of occupancy is issued; or construction is completed or abandoned. It expires even if the statute of limitations has not run.

Under Fant’s proposal, the 10-year window could shrink to seven, leaving homeowners responsible for fixing any defects discovered after the cutoff period for filing suit.

“Most people are very aware of the statute of limitations, but the statute of repose has no tolling or exemptions. It’s an absolute cutoff even if the defect was latent and could not have been discovered until that time,” said construction litigator Georg Ketelhohn, a senior associate at Siegfried Rivera Hyman Lerner De La Torre Mars & Sobel in Coral Gables. “It’s a concern because some construction defects do not manifest for at least seven years.”

Opponents say the bill would especially hurt condominium associations and owners who might not gain control of units for years but would face a shorter window to file claims for faulty construction or design work.

The bill made it past the House’s Civil Justice Committee on a 7-6 vote Feb. 17 and is headed next to the Judiciary Committee. If it becomes law, the change would take effect July 1 and become one of two potential game changers for property owners across the state.

The article continues to discuss HB 87:

Another proposal would require litigants to provide more detailed information when filing claim notices. Instead of identifying only some defects up front, a bill would require homeowners to identify every affected location as the basis of the claim.

Opponents say uncovering the full scope of a faulty construction or design would force property owners to undertake destructive investigations including demolition work to expose all shoddy work.

The bill by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, also would require the initial notice to specify the building code, project plans, drawings or other project specification to serve as the basis for the claim.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, filed a companion Senate bill Jan. 21.

“The intention is to limit construction claims in the state,” Ketelhohn said.

Our firm congratulates Georg for sharing his views on these important new pieces of proposed legislation for community associations with the editors of the Daily Business Review and the newspaper’s readers. Click here to read the complete article in the newspaper’s website (registration required).

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