In Wake of Chinese Drywall Debacle, Florida Lawmaker Proposes New Rules for Construction Defect Lawsuits

A Florida state lawmaker – who also happens to be the president of a building company that has acknowledged finding defective Chinese drywall in some of its homes – has proposed a new law that some fear could make it more difficult for homeowners to sue over construction defects.  According to a report on News-Press.com, Rep. Gary Aubuchon says his proposed law would only clarify existing standards, and was not introduced in reaction to the drywall problems Aubuchon Homes and other Florida builders have experienced.

Among other things, Aubuchon’s proposed law revises requirements for giving a builder notice and opportunity to repair certain defect.  It also authorizes parties to agree to mediation.

As we’ve been reporting for the past several months, owners of newer homes in South Florida have been complaining of drywall that smells like rotten eggs. In many cases, residents have had to leave their home because the smell was so bad.  In addition to the putrid smell, many South Florida homeowners have reported problems with air conditioning and other systems that are likely related to the defective Chinese drywall.  Some spent hundreds – even thousands of dollars – to have air conditioning, pipes and wiring repaired.

As we reported yesterday, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has begun an investigation of the Chinese drywall.  The investigation will focus on  whether the sulfur-based gases emitted from the drywall are corroding household wiring and posing a potential safety hazard.

The defective drywall has shown up in at least 15 Florida counties.  Aubuchon Homes has acknowledged that the tainted drywall was found in a “handful” of its homes.  According to New-Press.com, the company has moved one Ft. Myers family from their residence so defective drywall could be removed and replaced.  As we reported yesterday, Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp has reported drywall problems in his Aubuchon-built home.  Kottkamp has said he will sue the builder if an agreement cannot be reached with Aubuchon’s insurance company to fix the problem.

In an interview with News-Press, Aubuchon insisted the defective drywall was not a consideration in his decision to introduce his construction bill.  Rather the proposal was meant to address ambiguities in the Florida Construction Defect Statute of 2003. That aim of that law was to encourage builders and homeowners to work to resolve construction defects before a lawsuit could be filed.  Aubuchon told News-Press that the Florida Bar Association began working on revisions to the law in 2007.

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