As a father of seven children, my wife has often accused me of being Disney Dad−something to do with the allegation that I am the “fun” parent who takes the children to movies all the time, serves ice cream for breakfast, and lets them sleep in their clothes at bedtime. Never have…never did.
While having nothing to do with Disney nor being a dad, there is a new law in Florida that went into effect on July 1, 2017 that governs the limitations period for actions other than to recover real property. This includes construction claims and clarifies when the limitations period begins to run. In its simplest terms, a statute of limitation is a time limit for bringing a lawsuit (i.e., you may have six years to file suit on a breach of contract dispute), and a regularly disputed issue is determining when the time period begins to run. (I posted more about that here.)
Under the old law in Florida, this exact issue existed—there was confusion about when the limitations period began. The old law provided that actions based upon the design, planning or construction of an improvement to real property shall be commenced within four years, and that the the period begins on one of the following:
- the date of actual possession of the owner
- the date of issuance of the certificate of occupancy
- the date of abandonment if not completed
- the date of completion or termination of the contract between the engineer, architect, contractor and his employer
If the action involves a latent (or hidden) defect, then the time runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.
The new law clarified the “completion of contract” language above, stating: “Completion of the contract means the later of the date of final performance of all the contracted services or the date that final payment for such services becomes due without regard to the date final payment is made.”
So what? Well, as with most business owners and professionals like you, this Disney Dad likes clarity in order to avoid disputes, whether you are talking about fixing a construction defect, pursing a construction claim, or mitigating losses. If a defect was never discovered, and an owner had never made final payment, arguably the statute of limitations for such claims could be extended forever. The Florida legislature closed that loop.