Construction projects are often highly technical, and disputes arising from work done on a project can be somewhat difficult for a judge to settle due to their technicality. To alleviate this and other issues regarding construction legal claims, Florida law provides for a pre-suit dispute resolution process in Chapter 558 of the Florida Statutes. It is sometimes referred to as Florida’s Construction Disputes Statute (FCDS), and it generally applies to any commercial or residential construction project in the state.
What is a Chapter 558 Claim?
This tool is used by owners or developers of a construction project to provide notice to a contractor that they found a defect with the construction project. In the context of a Chapter 558 claim, a contractor can mean any prime contractor, subcontractor, supplier, architect, engineer, or other party that has rendered service or provided products during completion of the project.
A Chapter 558 claim usually gives the defendant of the claim 60 days to respond to the notice, although the timeline can be increased to 120 depending on the size of the structure. The Chapter 558 claim itself must contain “reasonable” details on the defect or defects.
When Can a Chapter 558 Claim be Initiated?
State law describes the point in which an owner or developer can serve a contract with a Chapter 558 claim as the substantial “completion of a building or improvement.” This usually means that a certificate of occupancy has been issued; if the jurisdiction of your structure does not issue such certificates, then substantial completion is intended to mean when “construction, finishing, and equipping of the building or improvement according to the plans and specifications” has been completed. Additionally, claimants are strongly encouraged to serve a Chapter 558 claim within 15 days of discovering the alleged defect.
What if a Chapter 558 Claim Is Not Settled?
If the two parties are not able to reach an agreement regarding the Chapter 558 claim, then the claimant can file a lawsuit. However, construction litigation can be costly and take a significant amount of time to work its way through the courts. Chapter 558 claims can be effective at providing both sides a confidential, simplified way of resolving disputes similar to mediation or arbitration.
Just because Chapter 558 claims do not directly involve civil courts does not mean you should file or respond to one without legal assistance. Not fulfilling your obligations concerning Chapter 558 claims can put you in at a severe disadvantage if you end up in court and drain your resources. Get in touch with the team here at Florida Construction Law Group to ensure any dispute that arises with your construction project is handled efficiently and professionally. Call us today at 305-227-4030.