Section 87, subsection (b)
Subsection (b) of UCIOA’s Section 87 contains the initial process of the “alternative dispute” procedure imposed upon Associations by the bill. The language is as follows:
§87(b) – Within 30 days of the receipt of the notice from the association, the declarant or its agent may send a written request to investigate the association’s claim, which shall be referred to as the “declarant’s reply.” The declarant’s reply shall include a stipulation by the declarant that all statutes of limitation applicable to any claim by the association against the declarant shall be tolled for 180 days or such shorter period of time as set forth in the cancellation notice delivered pursuant to subsection c. of this section. The tolling of the statutes of limitation shall be effective as of the date of the declarant’s reply. If the declarant fails to send the declarant’s reply within 30 days or fails to stipulate to the required tolling of all applicable statutes of limitation, then the association may institute an action without satisfying any other condition of this section.
Under this subsection, once the developer, called the “declarant,” has received the Association’s notice of a claim for some construction defect in the community, it has the ability to force the Association into the alternative dispute procedures outlined in Section 87 simply by sending a written request to investigate the Association’s claims (called the “declarant’s reply”), so long as the reply includes a stipulation that all applicable statutes of limitations are tolled for 180 days from the date of the reply. The tolling of applicable statutes of limitation was obviously included to create the impression that participation in the process would not jeopardize the Association’s ability to file a lawsuit in the event the process failed. The 180 day time period, however, is wholly inadequate. Anyone who is involved on a regular basis in construction defect claims arising in a community property setting knows that 180 days is far too short a time period to accomplish anything of substance. The statute should have been written to toll the applicable statutes of limitation for the entire life of the alternative dispute procedures that an Association must follow under Section 87.
The 180 time period is one of many examples in the statute that (apparently intentionally) force things to happen quickly before an Association can get its ducks in a row. The old adage “haste makes waste” comes to mind.
Moreover, the tolling provided in the statute only applies to claims against the developer. It does not apply to subcontractors, design professionals, product manufacturers and other potential defendants against whom the Association may have claims. The applicable statute of limitations for these claims would continue to run and could easily run out as to those parties while the Association waits for the alternative dispute procedures required under UCIOA to conclude. Since UCIOA does not require the Sponsor/Developer to disclose to the Association the identities of the various subcontractors, manufacturers, product distributors, design professionals and others involved in the construction of the project who may be liable for defects, the process required by UCIOA is actually very prejudicial to the Association because there is nothing stopping the Sponsor from refusing to disclose the identities of these various parties while the precious time the Association has to pursue those claims runs out during the time it takes for the mandatory procedures under UCIOA to run their course.