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Florida Building Code Violations: Recent Legislative Changes to Consider Before Filing a Lawsuit
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Florida Building Code Violations: Recent Legislative Changes to Consider Before Filing a Lawsuit

May 22, 2023 Construction Industry Legal Blog

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Florida law allows for a private cause of action for a party’s violation of the Florida Building Code (the “Code”).  See 553.84 of the Florida Statutes. There is no requirement for a party to have contact in order to bring a claim for a building code violation, thus, allowing a subsequent purchaser to bring a claim against the party that committed that violation.  Effective April 13, 2023, that statute was amended to better define and limit what is and is not a cognizable cause of action for violation of the Code. See Bill 360.

Code Violations Generally

When dealing with a Code violation in the context of litigation, one must first analyze Florida Statute Section 553.84 and determine whether it applies to the named party, given the work performed. Furthermore, the language of the statute does not impose strict liable for violations, nor does it make every party associated with a construction project liable.  A violation of the Code is evidence of negligence, but does not establish negligence per se.  See Lindsey v. Bill Arflin Bonding Agency Inc.

What Code Violations Did Florida Statute 553.84 Previously Allow

Prior to the recent statutory change, Section 553.84 of the Florida Statutes provided:

Notwithstanding any other remedies available, any person or party, in an individual capacity or on behalf of a class of persons or parties, damaged as a result of a violation of this part or the Florida Building Code, has a cause of action in any court of competent jurisdiction against the person or party who committed the violation; however, if the person or party obtains the required building permits and any local government or public agency with authority to enforce the Florida Building Code approves the plans, if the construction project passes all required inspections under the code, and if there is no personal injury or damage to property other than the property that is the subject of the permits, plans, and inspections, this section does not apply unless the person or party knew or should have known that the violation existed.

The language of the prior statute arguably allowed for Code violation claims no matter how significant or insignificant the Code violation.  The legislature changed that with the recent 2023 amendment.

What Claims Does Florida Statute 553.84 Now Allow

The revised Section 553.84 now provides:

Notwithstanding any other remedies available, any person or party, in an individual capacity or on behalf of a class of persons or parties, damaged as a result of a material violation of this part or the Florida Building Code, has a cause of action in any court of competent jurisdiction against the person or party who committed the material violation; however, if the person or party obtains the required building permits and any local government or public agency with authority to enforce the Florida Building Code approves the plans, if the construction project passes all required inspections under the code, and if there is no personal injury or damage to property other than the property that is the subject of the permits, plans, and inspections, this section does not apply unless the person or party knew or should have known that the material violation existed. For purposes of this section, the term “material violation” means a Florida Building Code violation that exists within a completed building, structure, or facility which may reasonably result, or has resulted, in physical harm to a person or significant damage to the performance of a building or its systems.

The underlined and bolded portions above demonstrate the recent changes to the statute.  According to the legislative analysis, this narrowing of the statute will provide owners fewer opportunities to file suit against builders for Code violations.  See Bill Analysis of Fiscal Impact Statement 2/20/2023.

Conclusion

The changes to section 553.84 of the Florida Statutes will better assist in determining what is and is not worthy of a Code violation claim in a lawsuit.  Of course, the terms “significant damage to the performance of a building or its systems” will still leave the door open for determining the viability of Code violation claims.  Prior to bringing a lawsuit for a Code violation, one should consult with competent construction counsel.

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