Disputes Regarding Interpretation of the Florida Building Code by Building Officials, The Florida Building Commission and Contractors
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Have a dispute regarding an interpretation of the Florida Building Code (the “Code”)? Building officials in the State of Florida are given a lot of leeway in enforcing and interpreting the Code; however, there are mechanisms to keep them in check. Read my blog concerning the processes, including Petitions for Declaratory Statements and Appeal, that help inform how the Florida Building Commission resolves disputes regarding the interpretations of the Code.
Overview – Florida Building Code
The purpose and intent of the Code is to provide a mechanism for the uniform adoption, interpretation, and enforcement of a single, unified state building code, which is to be applied, administered, and enforced uniformly and consistently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Fla. Stat. § 553.72(1). Local enforcement agencies, local building officials, and state agencies are required to interpret provisions of the Code in a manner that is consistent with declaratory statements and interpretations issued by the Florida Building Commission (the “Commission”). Fla. Stat. § 553.775(2). Additionally, the Commission is tasked with considering appeals involving a local building official’s interpretation of the Code. Fla. Stat. § 553.775(3)(c).
Petition For Declaratory Statements – Florida Building Commission
Pursuant to Rule 28-105.001, Florida Administrative Code, declaratory statements are a means for resolving a controversy or answering questions or doubts concerning the applicability of statutory provisions, rules, or orders over which an agency has authority. A petition for declaratory statement may be used to resolve questions or doubts as to how the statutes, rules, or orders may apply to the petitioner’s particular circumstances; however, declaratory statements are not the appropriate means for determining the conduct of another person. Upon written application by any substantially affected person, the Commission shall issue declaratory statements pursuant to § 120.565, Florida Statutes, relating to the enforcement or administration by local governments of the Code. Fla. Stat. § 553.775(3)(a).
The petition seeking a declaratory statement shall state with particularity the petitioner’s set of circumstances and shall specify the statutory provision, rule, or order that the petitioner believes may apply to the set of circumstances. Fla. Stat. § 120.565(2). The Commission has ninety (90) days after the petition is filed to issue a declaratory statement or deny the petition. Fla. Stat. § 120.565(3). When filing a petition for declaratory statement, it is imperative the petition includes the required criteria referenced in Rule 28-105.002, Florida Administrative Code.
Appealing A Building Official’s Interpretation Of The Code
Requests to review a decision of a local building official interpreting provisions of the Code may be initiated by any substantially affected person. According to § 553.775(3)(c)2., Florida Statutes, this includes an owner or builder subject to a decision of a local building official, or an association of owners or builders having members who are subject to a decision of a local building official. In order to initiate review, the substantially affected person must file a petition with the commission and follow the requirements of § 553.775(3)(c)2., Florida Statutes.
The Commission is tasked with reviewing decisions of local building officials and local enforcement agencies regarding interpretations of the Code after the local board of appeals has considered the decision, if such board exists. Fla. Stat. § 553.775(3)(c). In the event that a local board of appeals does not exist, the Commission is tasked with reviewing a building official’s decision. The Commission is required to coordinate with the Building Officials Association of Florida, Inc. to designate seven (7) members to hear requests to review decisions of local building officials. Fla. Stat. § 553.775(3)(c)1.
While it is true, local building officials are given a lot of latitude when enforcing and interpreting the Code, there are, however, a couple procedures to ensure the Code’s intent is followed. The requirements of filing a petition for declaratory statement or an appeal are very technical. Prior to implementing this procedure, it may be best to discuss with your attorney the circumstances surrounding the dispute.