Senate Bill 736 Kicks Us While We’re Down

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Grant Miller

I guess the politicians in Tallahassee think that with the impact of COVID-19 on our families and our businesses, we’re not going to notice a bill that makes it harder for landlords to sue developers for building dangerous houses and apartments.

Well, I noticed.

The Florida Senate and the state’s real estate builders and developers and their lobbying henchmen should be ashamed of themselves and stop Senate Bill 736 in its tracks. And Northeast Florida Sen. Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine), the bill’s sponsor, should stop pushing it forward.

If Senate Bill 736 is signed into law by Governor DeSantis, home builders will be liable for defects for only 4 years instead of 10. If the builder commits intentional fraud or violates building code or safety regulations fire, it makes no difference – there are no exceptions. Four years and it’s over.

Or should I say, your goose is done.

To me, it’s not like a punch in the stomach. It’s a kick to the head with steel-toed boots when you’re down.

Under normal circumstances, this type of under-the-radar law change would be bad. Considering we are all in a tailspin with COVID-19 and the Delta and Omicron variants, this is downright mean-spirited and undermines our communities.

Florida is one of the most populated states in the country with more and more people moving there every year. You can’t beat time, after all, and there’s no state income tax. The influx of new residents means that we will need more and more new housing.

Hutson’s Senate Bill 736 essentially invites fraud and poor construction. One need only consider the tragedy of the Tours Champlain Sud where 98 people died and literally hundreds were left homeless to understand the potential impact of poor construction.

I experienced Hurricane Andrew on August 24, 1992, a Category 5 monster that caused billions of dollars in damage to the people of Miami-Dade County. It was only after the storm that experts realized that the method used to tie down the roofs of most newer homes was ineffective, contributing to dangerous conditions which, combined with the power of the storm, caused devastated South Miami-Dade County.

It took us a generation to recover from that storm.

We in South Florida are strong people who have come together when times are tough. We don’t need Hutson’s Senate Bill 736 undermining owners’ ability to recover damages from developers who behave in bad faith and position our owners for weakness instead of strength.

Senator Hutson and the proponents and their lobbyists should withdraw Bill 736 from the Senate. Anything less is a kick in the head.

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Norman D. Briggs