Florida governor, Legislature violate constitution with builder protection law

Article Courtesy of The Bradenton Herald


Published August 3, 2013


Not that Tallahassee watchers needed any more proof that the Legislature runs off the rails with some special interest legislation, but this example show hubris beyond measure. And homeowners associations throughout the state should take notice.


Earlier this month, Florida's Supreme Court struck down a law created solely for the benefit of one developer, mired in a lawsuit filed by the Lakeview Reserve Homeowners Association over deeply flawed road and drainage construction.


The resulting flooding and erosion damaged roads and properties, but the defects didn't surface until the association took control of the Orange County neighborhood from the developer. Retention ponds overflowed, roads disintegrated and driveways sank.


The association's lawsuit claimed Maronda Homes of Florida Inc. broke an implied warranty that their homes would be habitable. The builder contended that once homeowners assumed responsibility for the subdivision, the association was liable for infrastructure repairs.


A lower court sided with the developer, but the association won in an appellate court.


At this juncture, in steps the Legislature to craft a law to shield Maronda. That measure carved out streets and drainage from implied warranties -- appallingly with retroactive language that cited this particular homeowners association.


How brazen. And Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill.


But the Supreme Court voided the law, ruling the Legislature violated the separation of powers by adopting a law to address an active legal dispute. Furthermore, justices found the law violated the state constitution's guarantee of the right to possess and protect property.


The governor's office responded to the decision by stating Scott signed the bill "to keep the cost of living low," adding the ruling will "raise the cost of buying a home in Florida through the imposition of a litigation tax."


A tax? Apparently, everything that denies business greater profits is a vile "tax" and consumer protections are pesky roadblocks to higher corporate balance sheets.


And by that measure, anything and everything that lowers the cost of doing business should be embraced -- such as polluting our waterways.


Scary stuff from Florida's executive branch, for sure. Thank goodness for the checks and balances that the constitution provides.