TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature went too far when they created a law on behalf of a developer in an effort to stop a lawsuit filed by a homeowners association, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Scott signed a bill last year that was designed to end a lawsuit filed against Maronda Homes of Florida, Inc., by a homeowners association over defective road and drainage construction that caused flooding and erosion, damaging roads and properties.
The Lakeview Reserve Homeowners Association sued saying the construction problems broke an implied warranty that homes in the Orange County subdivision would be habitable. Maronda Homes' defense was that once the association took over control of the development, it was responsible for repairs to infrastructure and common areas. A lower court ruled in favor of Maronda Homes, but an appeals court sided with the association.
The construction and design flaws didn't become apparent until after Maronda Homes turned over the development to the association. That's when retention ponds began overflowing, storm drainage runoffs began collapsing, roads started breaking apart, lawns became routinely flooded and ground underneath driveways started sinking.
While the case was still pending before the Supreme Court, the Legislature passed a bill that essentially said implied warranties of habitability do not apply to streets and drainage. The bill language specifically cited the homeowners association's lawsuit and had language that was retroactive in an effort to protect Maronda Homes.
The court Thursday sided with the homeowners association, saying that infrastructure like roads and drainage are part of a warranty of habitability.
The Supreme Court said the Legislature overstepped its bounds in passing a law to resolve the active legal dispute.
"This is a clear violation of separation of powers because the Legislature does not sit as a supervising appellate court over our district courts of appeal," the court wrote in its opinion.
The court also ruled that the law violated the right to possess and protect property, which is guaranteed in the state constitution.
Gov. Scott's office defended the decision to sign the bill.
"Gov. Scott signed this legislation to keep the cost of living low. Today's ruling will raise the cost of buying a home in Florida through the imposition of a litigation tax," said spokeswoman Melissa Sellers.
Maronda Homes of Florida didn't immediately return a call for comment. The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami, didn't return a message left with his district office.
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