What Happens When My Property Has Building Code Violations?

Building Code violations are a serious matter under Florida law.  The Florida Building Code was enacted in 2002 to promote the protection of “public safety, health, and general welfare for all the people of Florida”. Owning a property with building code violations exposes the owner to significant liability. First, there is the liability for the code violations themselves. Should local code enforcement become aware of the violations, the owner can be fined for the violations. If the fines are not paid, they can lead to a lien against the owner’s property.

Second, there is potential liability to your guests for personal injuries. If a set of stairs, for example, are not constructed to code and create a trip hazard, causing someone to fall and suffer an injury, the owner may be liable regardless of whether he or she knew of the code violation.

Third, if an owner decides to sell their property, the existence of code violations could cost the seller the sale or require a sale at a lower price because of the violations. Not disclosing the violations to a potential buyer is not an option – the law holds sellers accountable to their buyers if they fail to disclose known code violations, including the failure to obtain required permits.

So what do you do if your property has building code violations? It depends on your situation.

Did the code violations exist at the time you purchased the property? If so, you may have a claim against your seller or the seller’s agent, if they knew of the violations and failed to disclose them prior to the sale.

Did you hire a contractor to perform work and only later discovered the work was done without permits or in violation of the building code? If so, you likely have a claim against your contractor for violation of the building code. There are statutory and other remedies. For example, it is grounds for discipline against a contractor’s license if proper permits and inspections were not obtained.

As a board certified construction law attorney, I have been dealing with building code issues for many years. If you need assistance dealing with a building code issue, please contact me directly at reese.henderson@gray-robinson.com or call me at (904) 632-8459.

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