Building Codes 101
One basic requirement for every new construction project and every 40-year recertification in the State of Florida is that the design and construction must comply with the Florida Building Code. Another requirement is that the construction must pass inspections by the local building official. In order for any high-rise building to pass inspection (and for any Certificate of Occupancy and 40-year recertification) to be approved, the building must be built in compliance with the Florida Building Code, inclusive of all structural, waterproofing, electrical, and other pertinent requirements.
After Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992, the Florida Legislature took measures to enact the Florida Building Code in order to prevent the large-scale destruction resulting from that event from happening again. The Building Code created new requirements for all new construction in Florida, including but not limited to that structures be constructed to withstand hurricane force winds and to have storm shutters or impact-resistant windows. Since then, the Building Code has been updated approximately every three years, and buildings must be designed and constructed in accordance with the applicable building code version in effect at the time the permit application for each project is submitted. The Building Code is regularly updated, typically to provide more stringent restrictions. The history of the Florida Building Code demonstrates its obvious purpose: to protect the lives and safety of all residents of these buildings, and more specifically, to ensure that buildings are structurally sound and adequately protected from water intrusion that is common here in Florida.
Unfortunately, despite the purpose of the Building Code, new buildings are often constructed with Building Code violations, which sometimes require costly remediation at the expense of homeowners or community associations. Indeed, any building component constructed in violation of the approved drawings and specifications for a project is considered a violation of the Building Code itself – – which requires that buildings be built in accordance with the approved plans and specifications. This could lead to Building Code violations resulting from simple construction/installation errors by subcontractors on a project.
In the event that Building Code violations are discovered, the Florida Legislature has created a statutory cause of action for property owners to pursue damages against any party that committed the violation through Section 553.84, Florida Statutes. Specifically, a homeowner plaintiff can recover damages against a defendant for Building Code violations so long as the plaintiff can demonstrate the defendant was involved in “committing” the violation. If the property passed all required inspections by the Building Department and there is no damage to property other than the property that is the subject of the permits, plans, and inspections, the homeowner can still recover damages so long as the plaintiff can demonstrate that the party “knew or should have known that the violation existed.”
If you are concerned about any Building Code violations at your building or single-family home, you should consult with your property manager, with your community association Board of Directors, and/or with qualified construction attorneys who can assist to evaluate your options moving forward. To learn more, contact Jacob Epstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.