Today’s Fort Myers News-Press has an article about a new bill proposed by state Representative Gary Aubuchon. The proposed bill will further regulate what steps owners must take to pursue claims for construction defects. Florida already has Chapter 558 which is, per its own terms, an “alternative method to resolve construction disputes that would reduce the need for litigation as well as protect the rights of property owners.” Chapter 558, governs all properties which may be the subject of a construction defect claim: single family homes, condominium units, condominium associations and commercial properties. Over the last several years there have been changes to the statute. Representative Aubuchon’s bill appears to have more changes in store for Chapter 558. As of this post I have not seen a copy of the bill, but based upon the article the bill provides: 1. Requirements for the exchange of specific material for the claimed defects 2. Deadline for the exchange of information, and attendant penalties 3. Changes language about testing for defects 4. Authorizes parties to agree to mediation Section 558.004(15) creates a right for parties to demand “discoverable evidence relating to the construction defects” but failed to specify a time frame within which such materials should be provided. The section also references that penalties can be imposed by a court without specifying what the penalties are. However, any penalties for the failure to provide documents, or “discoverable evidence,” impede on the court’s rule-making authority. The courts determine the scope of discovery, as well as what is, and is not, evidence. There are significant issues of constitutionality raised here. The language about testing for defects will be very important. As the law stands now, a contractor can already request to destructively test an allegedly defective building component subject to the statute’s restrictions. What more or less will be required under the proposal? Finally, parties in a civil dispute (whether in suit or not) have always had the opportunity to agree to mediation. You do not need a statute to agree to it.. Although it is unclear if such mediation would be made mandatory prior to filing suit. If so, this would just be one more impediment to owners being able to pursue their claims and a further hoop to jump through for owners. It would take away from owners the right to gauge for themselves if mediation would be beneficial. Stay tuned for further updates.