Currently pending in the Florida Legislature are two bills that should be of particular interest to Florida property owners, especially condominium associations, homeowner associations and single family home owners. If passed and signed into law, House Bill 911 and Senate Bill 1246 would overhaul Florida’s construction defect notice and opportunity to repair statute, Chapter 558. Among other things, both bills require court-ordered mandatory nonbinding arbitration in all construction defect cases and repeal the current pre-suit notice and opportunity to repair requirements set out in sections 558.003, 558.004, and 558.005. Describing arbitration as an effective and cost-efficient method of resolving construction defect claims, HB 911 and SB 1246 require arbitration to be commenced once all the proper parties have been joined to the action, but no later than 180 days after the action is brought. Any party joined to the action after 180 days is still subject to mandatory, non-binding arbitration.
Both bills also requires that specific findings be made by the fact-finder (arbitrator or jury) in the event the parties opt not to be bound by the arbitrator’s determination and pursue a traditional law suit. Each party must elect in writing to be bound by the arbitration award within 30 days after it is rendered. If a party does not agree to be bound by the arbitration award, that party may proceed with a traditional lawsuit on any unresolved portions of the claim. The parties may still settle any claims during the arbitration process.
The first reading of HB 911 took place on March 5, 2019. No other action has been taken as of April 23. After being introduced on March 5, 2019, SB 1246 was temporarily postponed on March 25. We will continue to monitor both bills and will update this blog as their status changes.