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No statute of repose clarification (vetoed bill)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Mike Cook
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A plan to update a 2004 law that would have helped some homeowners was rejected by the governor.

Sponsored by Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) and Sen. Sandy Rummel (DFL-White Bear Lake), the bill was an attempt to clarify intent of the law to provide when a lawsuit for a warranty violation must be brought.

“Although this legislation may be well-intentioned we should be cautious about placing more restrictions on the housing sector during this historic recession,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty wrote in his veto letter.

The statute of repose remained in the bill presented to the governor, so no one could make a claim after 12 years; but it contained two different statutes of limitations. If the breach were discovered in the first 10 years, the homeowner would still have up to two years of statute of limitations to file the claim once they’ve reported the breach. Problems discovered in year 11 or 12 would have just one year to file a claim.

The 2004 law requires a lawsuit to be brought within two years of the breach of the warranty discovery, but not more than 12 years from when the warranty took effect. However, Bunn said one subdivision in law has a 10-year maximum and some courts use that shorter timeframe, thereby catching homeowners in the middle.

A 2007 court decision went against the original intent by stating all claims must be within 10 years — the stated warranty on many home repairs — even though 12 years was always the intent of the 2004 state law, she said.

“The current period of 10 years in current law seems sufficient,” Pawlenty wrote. “The legislation also applies not only to future cases, but current cases as well. Changing the law in the middle of the game is unfair and unwise.”


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