As a board member of a homeowner association in Florida, it is important to be aware of the Florida Building Code and how it affects your community. The Florida Building Code sets minimum requirements for construction, alteration, modification, and repairs of buildings and structures to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Unfortunately, construction and design defect claims are not uncommon in Florida, and often involve parties alleging a violation of the Code. This guide provides an overview of Florida’s laws surrounding Code violations, including private causes of action and licensees’ accountability.
Private Cause of Action and Licensees’ Accountability
Florida law allows for a private cause of action for a party’s violation of the Florida Building Code, as outlined in Section 553.84 of the Florida Statutes. Additionally, licensees are held accountable for material violations of the Code that are not promptly remedied by imposing fines under Section 553.781 of the Florida Statutes. If the fine is not paid within 30 days, the licensee’s ability to obtain permits within Florida will be suspended until the fine is paid.
What is a “Material Violation”?
A “material violation” of the Code refers to a violation that exists within a completed building, structure, or facility that may reasonably result, or has resulted, in physical harm to a person or significant damage to the building’s performance or its systems.
Liability for Code Violations
It is important to note that not all parties associated with a construction project can be held liable for a violation of the Code. A violation of the Code is evidence of negligence but does not establish negligence per se. Therefore, it is crucial to analyze Section 553.84 to determine whether it applies to the named party, given the work performed. It is also worth noting that liability under the Code is only imposed on the person or party who committed the violation.
Recent Court Decisions
Recent court decisions have further clarified who can be held liable for building code violations. In Casa Clara Condominium Association, Inc. v. Charley Toppino & Sons, Inc., a concrete supplier was not held liable for a building code violation. The court reasoned that since there was no allegation that the supplier performed construction, erection, alteration, or repair of the structure, they were not charged with a duty to comply with the building code. Similarly, in Mann v. Island Resorts Development, Inc., a developer was not held liable for building code violations associated with the construction of a terrace of a condominium unit. The court held that the complaint against the developer failed to state a cause of action because the developer did not commit the building code violation and that Florida law does not impose a duty on the developer to supervise construction.
In conclusion, the Florida Building Code is critical to ensuring public safety and the integrity of construction projects. As a board member of a homeowner association in Florida, it is important to be aware of the Code’s provisions and how they affect your community. While the Code is essential, it is important to note that it does not apply to all parties associated with a construction project. Furthermore, Section 553.84 does not impose strict liability for a violation of the Code. Understanding the law surrounding Code violations and liability can help board members navigate potential legal issues and make informed decisions.