House bill filed to protect citizens against construction defects
By John McPhaul
Rep. Joel Franqui Atiles introduced a bill on Monday aimed at guaranteeing that people have a fair and responsive process for resolving grievances suffered as a result of construction defects.
“There are many Puerto Rican families who face difficulties, almost insurmountable, after entities or people hired to carry out construction or repair work in their homes do not comply with what was agreed upon, the legislator said in a written statement. “After Hurricanes Irma and Maria, this situation worsened, since many people complained of irregularities and the poor quality of the work that contractors carried out in their residences.”
“And currently reconstruction projects are being carried out for houses damaged by the earthquakes in the southern area of the island, so it is necessary to provide guarantees to citizens,” he added.
House Bill 449 creates the Law of Special Procedure in Cases of Construction Defects and amends the Civil Code of Puerto Rico in order to increase the expiration period for civil liability to the contractor or architect for construction defects, as well as gross negligence, Franqui Atiles said.
The legislator said that in the first instance, the measure establishes a short period of 20 days to answer the complaint, under penalty of granting the remedy as requested and the discovery mechanisms of evidence are limited to two. In the second instance, the compensation is limited to the value that the property would have. Damages for mental anguish will be quantified according to the court order.
He added that the measure provides for a group of citizens affected by such a situation, and that is caused by the same contractor, developer or architect, to file a lawsuit together. The island Housing Department is granted the ability to intervene in a lawsuit, if deemed necessary.
The measure also establishes that at the request of the plaintiff the case can be diverted to a mediation procedure. Once the plaintiff requests mediation, it will be compulsory to hold the process and for all parties to appear.