The statute of limitations, or “S.O.L.”, is the time frame within which a lawsuit must be filed in a court of law. After the prescribed time frame is done, a suit can no longer be filed, and the S.O.L. is said to have “expired. Depending on the nature of the defect, the S.O.L. for condo defect lawsuits will vary in Ft. Lauderdale.
The guidelines which regulate S.O.L. procedures in Florida make a distinction between “known” defects and “latent” defects. Known defects are those that have already been brought to the attention of a condo unit owner or the condo association. Latent defects are those which are not initially known to the owner but may be discovered upon a making a reasonably diligent search. The Statute of Limitations for cases involving condo defects in Ft. Lauderdale are:
- Known Defects: The S.O.L. for known defects is 4 years from the time of “transition”. Transition is when the condominium complex is transferred from the construction team to the condo association. Suits may not be brought during transition periods, but only after transition is complete. So for example, if a person purchases a condo unit 2 years after transition, they have 2 years left to file a suit for a known defect.
- Note: likewise, the S.O.L. for construction improvements on an individual condo unit is 4 years from the time of completion of the improvement.
- Latent Defects: The S.O.L. for latent defects is 10 years from the end of transition (or completion of an improvement contract). Thus, if a latent defect was discovered by a diligent search 3 years after an improvement was made, the owner has 7 years left to file their claim against the responsible party.
As you can see, statutes of limitations serve many useful purposes. First, they encourage unit owners to make diligent and reasonable inspections of their properties to make sure there are no latent defects. The S.O.L. also presents the unit owner with a deadline and in effect compels them to file their lawsuits in a timely manner.
I’ve also heard of the Phrase “Tolling the Statute of Limitations”. What does it mean, and how will it apply to a Defect S.O.L.?
In legal parlance, “toll” means to suspend or postpone the effect of a given statute. Thus, “tolling the statute of limitations” means that the clock on the time period for filing has stopped running. This will effectively create an extension of the deadline for filing. With regards to a condo defect S.O.L., Florida Statutes Chapter 558 outlines procedures for tolling the statute of limitations in Ft. Lauderdale. These can be complicated and involve a stipulation (agreement) of the party being served that the S.O.L. will be tolled. Consult with an attorney for more information regarding tolling the S.O.L.
If you plan on filing a lawsuit in a civil court for a condo defects claim, the services of a lawyer are indispensable. A Ft. Lauderdale real estate lawyer will be able to assist you in making sure that your filing procedures conform to the statute of limitations. Also, a lawyer can help you distinguish between known and latent defects, and they may even be able to provide you with tips for discovering defects. If you suspect that the statute of limitations will be an issue, inquire with a lawyer as to more options regarding tolling the S.O.L.