Building Code Violations and Contractor Liability
Florida, like many states, maintains a Building Code. Generally, the Florida Building Code is intended to make construction across the State as uniform as possible, while also ensuring that the resulting structures are safe and usable for whatever purpose they are intended. Unfortunately, in some cases, failing to follow the Code may cause problems that can jeopardize the integrity of the structure, putting lives at risk. Retaining the services of an attorney experienced in construction defect law is crucial to holding these individuals accountable. Pursuant to Florida law, every three years, the Florida Legislature must update the Florida Building Code, and is required to take into account international building code norms when doing so. Outgoing Senator Bill Nelson has recently chastised the Legislature for passing a law which allows it to waive the international building code consideration. A discussion of the legal ramifications of violations of the Florida Building Code, as well as how liability can attach, will follow below.
Violations of the Florida Building Code
Florida law allows an individual to bring a cause of action against another party, such as a contractor or a subcontractor, if that other party materially violates the Florida Building Code. According to the law, a “material violation” of the Building Code is a 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. If a court finds a material violation does exist, then the court may impose fines on the party, and, if the fines are not paid, can suspend the party’s license, preventing the party from obtaining construction permits for future projects.
Liability for Violations of the Building Code
It is important to note that findings of violations of the Florida Building Code will not result in direct compensation to the property owner. The fines and other penalties go to the state, not property owner.
However, proof of a violation of the Building Code can be evidence of negligence, as part of a construction defect claim against the builder. Briefly, to prove a party, in the construction industry, has been negligent, a successful plaintiff must show that the party had a duty to construct a building or other edifice in a reasonably safe manner, that the party had failed in this duty, that the plaintiff was injured, that the injury was a direct cause of the party’s failure to uphold this duty, and that the injury resulted in quantifiable damages.
Accordingly, it is a requirement that a plaintiff must have suffered an injury to succeed in a negligence claim. Thus, even though a party may have violated the Florida Building Code, if there is no injury, there can be no action based on negligence.
If an injury has occurred, though, the plaintiff may be able to use the party’s violation of the Florida Building Code as proof that the party failed to adhere to its duty of constructing an edifice in a reasonably safe manner. In this case, the “duty” is the legal requirement that the party must follow the Florida Building Code.
Finally, it should be noted that Florida courts have held that two parties cannot be held liable for violations of the Building Code. Specifically, suppliers or materialmen or developers have been held not to be liable for violations of the Building Code. This is because they were not involved in the actual construction of the edifices.
Seek Legal Advice
If you own a property which has recently suffered a construction defect, and you believe the contractor, or a subcontractor, has not adhered to the Florida Building Code, contact the experienced construction attorneys at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. as soon as possible. We have years of experience in handling construction law issues, including those involving violations of the Building Code. We will review your situation to see if a Code violation has occurred, and, if it has, fight to get you as much relief as possible. Contact our Jupiter office today for a consultation of your situation.