Breach of Construction Warranty

What Are Construction Warranties?

A warranty is a guarantee that a contractor makes regarding the condition of its service or product. There are many types of warranties that contractors should be aware of. The two categories of warranties are implied and explicit warranties. Implied warranties are provided by law and do not need to be written in a contract. Explicit warranties are written in the contract or proposal.

Explicit Warranties

Explicit warranties consist of material and equipment, call back, vendor, and design-build. Material and equipment warranties simply guarantee that the building will be properly constructed, is functional, and is in accordance with the building code. Call back warranties allow the owner to call the contractor to take care of any of the work that wasn’t performed correctly during the project, as long as the callback is within the warranty period. However, the owner must notify the contractor to give them a chance to repair or replace the work before pursuing another remedy. Vendor warranties don’t typically apply to the contractor themselves, but rather the material or product they use on the job. For example, if the general contractor states that the foam roof has a warranty for 5 years, and the roof gets damaged within the confines of the warranty’s language, then the vendor who makes the roof material will be responsible. Lastly, design-build warranties cover professional services, like making sure the engineering and architecture is sufficient.

Implied Warranties

Implied warranties cover unwritten expectations of work that has been performed. Two types of implied warranties are habitability and workmanship.

“The implied warranty of habitability is a judicial innovation which evolved, as a matter of public policy, to protect purchasers of new house upon discovery of latent defects in their homes.” Elizabeth N. v. Riverside Grp., Inc., 585 So. 2d 376, 379 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1991). The building is deemed to be habitable if it was “reasonably fit for the ordinary or general purpose intended, viz., as living quarters. A breach thereof, therefore, would be that it is not so fit; and the test of the breach is an objective one, i.e., whether the premises met ordinarily, normal standards reasonably to be expected of living quarters of comparable kind and quality.” Putnam v. Roudebush, 352 So. 2d 908, 910 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1977). So, personal satisfaction is not the test of whether a building is inhabitable or uninhabitable, but rather whether the building has met normal standards reasonably to be expected of other buildings of comparable quality.

Workmanship warranty is a guarantee that the work will be completed in workmanlike manner, free of major defects. Sometimes workmanship warranties do include a written provision in the contract. The contractor breaches the implied warranty if they have failed to “construct according to plans or in a workmanlike or acceptable manner, or for failure to provide a unit or building which is reasonably habitable. Sckmeck v. Sea Oats Condominium Asso., 441 So. 2d 1092, 1097 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983).

How Long do Construction Warranties Last?

Explicit warranties will generally have a time limit that is stated in the contract or warranty document. For example, a roof warranty might be around 15 years, and any problems that occur within 15 years will be covered under the warranty.

On the other hand, implicit warranties are set within statutes and case law precedent. There are two statutes that determine the length of an implied warranty: the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. The statute of limitations places a limitation on how long a claimant can wait before filing a claim based on when the harm occurred. If the statute of limitations is 10 years, then the claimant has 10 years from the date the event occurred to file a claim. For actions founded on the planning, construction of an improvement to real property, the action must be commenced within 10 years after the date of actual possession by the owner. Fla. Stat. §95.11. Statute of repose sets a deadline to file a claim based on a date plus the passage of time. The amount of time depends on relevant laws in certain circumstances.

How to Avoid Breaching a Construction Warranty

Owners/employers have the possibility to breach a construction warranty, which would prevent the owner from claiming the warranty As an owner, to avoid breaching a construction warranty, be sure to read explicit warranties carefully to make sure you follow the exact protocol in claiming the warranty; if you have damage that you may thin be covered, it is best to check with an attorney to improve your chances of a successful warranty claim. To ensure the best possible chance of claiming, keep the warranties organized and in a safe place and document the dates that the product or material was purchased, installed, and put into use. And in the event of a possible claim, document the event with date-stamped photos and send a letter to the contractor and keep a copy for your files.

As for contractors/employees, the best way to make sure owners don’t claim explicit or implied construction warranties is to ensure customer satisfaction and complete work that is compliant with the Florida Building Code.

In Florida, the attorneys of RAK Law Firm are reputable construction litigation lawyers who fight for their client’s rights, as well as offering a myriad of other legal services. If you have any questions or concerns arising from a construction warranty, please do not hesitate to contact us at (407)-437-0319.

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