The time frame within which a lawsuit needs to be filed is called the “statute of limitations”, commonly called the S.O.L. for short. After the time frame is completed, the S.O.L. is said to have “expired”, and a suit can no longer be brought in court. For lawsuits involving Miami condominium construction defects, the S.O.L. varies depending on the nature of the defect.
Florida S.O.L. guidelines delineate between “known” defects and “latent” defects. A known defect is one that has already been brought to the attention of the condo association or unit owner. A latent defect is one which is not known to the owner but can be discovered through a reasonably diligent search or inquiry. The Statute of Limitations for cases involving condo defects in Miami are:
· Known Defects: The S.O.L. for known defects is 4 years from the time that the condominium complex was transferred from the construction team to the condo association. The transfer is known as “transition”. Suits may not be brought during transition periods. So for example, if a person purchases a condo unit 1 year after transition, they have 3 years left to file a suit for a known defect.
o Note: likewise, the S.O.L. for construction improvements 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 time of transition or completion of the improvement contract. Thus, if a latent defect was discovered by a diligent search 6 years after an improvement was made, the owner has 4 years left to file their claim against the responsible party.
As you can see, the S.O.L. serves some useful purposes. First, it encourages unit owners to make diligent and reasonable inspections of their properties in order to make sure there are no latent defects. The S.O.L. also presents the unit owner with a deadline in order to encourage them to file their lawsuits in a timely manner.
I’ve Heard of the term “Tolling the Statute of Limitations”. What does this mean, and how does it Apply to a Defect S.O.L.?
In legal parlance, the word “toll” means to suspend or postpone the effect of a statute. So, “tolling the statute of limitations” implies that the clock on the time period for filing has stopped running. This effectively creates an extension of the deadline for filing. With regards to a condo defect S.O.L., Florida Statutes Chapter 558 provides procedures for tolling the statute of limitations in Miami. These are complicated and involve a stipulation (agreement) of the party being served that the S.O.L. will be tolled. Consult with a Miami lawyer for more options regarding tolling the S.O.L.
Should I Hire a Miami Lawyer for my Claim Regarding Condo Defects?
If you are going to be filing a lawsuit in court for a condo defect, the services of a lawyer are indispensable. They will be able to assist you in making sure that your filing procedures conform to the statute of limitations. Also, a Miami lawyer can help clarify known and latent defects, and they may even be able to provide you with guidelines for discovering defects. If you think that the statute of limitations will be an issue, inquire with a real estate lawyer as to options regarding tolling the S.O.L.