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Newly passed bill to lower statute of limitations on fraudulent contracting gets mixed reactions

Contractors said they're in favor of the bill, homeowners said they're against it
Posted at 7:33 PM, Apr 06, 2023

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It's a sore spot for many in Florida, particularly after hurricanes: shoddy contractors.

Now, there's controversy over a new bill recently passed in the Florida Senate that deals with just that.

Senate Bill 360 would lower the statute of limitations to prosecute shoddy contractors from 10 years to seven years.

Construction Attorney, Patrick Howell, said the bill could compromise homeowner warranty protections for latent or hidden construction defects, including foundation issues, most structural defects, and leaks behind stucco and under roofs, for both new construction and renovations.

“This is really going to create problems for folks in condominiums, folks that live in homeowner associations, and then also people that own a single family house," Howell said.

Howell said as the law stands right now, developers have seven years to hand over the association for a condominium or a home in an HOA to the homeowner, meaning the homeowner can't make a claim on a construction defect until then.

Okeechobee homeowner Rick Frymyer.jpg
Okeechobee homeowner Rick Frymyer shares his personal experience with shoddy contractors.

He said lowering the statute of limitations for prosecuting shoddy contractors would essentially eliminate the three year window those homeowners have to file any complaints.

"Literally, the deadline for bringing a claim for a construction defect will already have run," Howell said.

"So there is absolutely no chance that they can get justice or accountability?” said WPTV's Kate Hussey.

“Exactly," Howell said.

Howell also said homeowners are more likely to get scammed, as the lack of accountability can create an incentive for fraudulent work.

"The thing that keeps folks honest in this industry is that they may be held accountable," Howell said.

Okeechobee homeowner, Rick Frymyer, also said he was against the bill. Frymyer has personal experience with shoddy contractors. A few years ago, he and his wife hired one to build their pool. $35,000 later, Frymyer said he was left with a hole in the ground, and the contractor nowhere to be found.

“The floor, the Travertine tile we were promised, it never showed," Frymyer said. “It was an absolutely nightmare for my wife and I, being retired, on a fixed income.”

Frymyer said the contractor, who has since been convicted of fraud and money laundering, was convincing, and said seeing his conviction was a relief.

Gizze Construction owner Anthony Gizze.jpg
Gizze Construction owner Anthony Gizze explains why he is in favor of the bill and how it would protect contractors.

"He made it sound too good to be true. Unfortunately, we bought it. We bought until the sale. And I've regretted it ever since," Frymyer said. "I'm feeling really relieved just getting this off my chest."

Frymyer added he felt the new bill would significantly reduce the chances of other homeowners like himself getting that same relief.

"I don’t care if its ten or twenty years ago, it wasn’t done right, and I had to hire somebody else to fix the problem," Frymyer said.

Yet, not everyone feels this way.

The point of the bill is to protect reliable contractors, like Anthony Gizze, who owns Gizze Construction out of Port St. Lucie, from frivolous lawsuits and homeowners who take advantage.

Gizze said it happens often, and can cost reliable contractors like himself thousands out of their own pockets.

"There’s homeowners that pull all kinds of crazy little tricks to get out of paying, they throw you off the job right when you’re about to finish, they didn’t like somebody’s tone," Gizze said.

Gizze said he's all in favor of keeping contractors accountable, and prosecuting shoddy ones, but said he does think the law is a good thing.

“Absolutely, contractors need more protection," Gizze said. "It's a very risky business."

Gizze said he also felt it could help streamline the prosecution of current cases by cutting down on old cases.

“I think by lowering the 10 year to seven year could help by cutting some of the old issues that weren’t pursued right away, and it just brings it to the homeowner to pursue going after the contractors right away," he said. "If it happens, go to legal, right away. And don’t wait ten years to resolve a matter if it's that important."

The bill now heads to Governor Ron DeSantis' desk to be signed.