In a previous post with a borrowed Pink Floyd lyric as its title, I warned readers about the statutes of limitation on various claims alleged in real estate misrepresentation cases. While these cases are our firm's bread and butter, we also pursue property damage claims against owners of neighboring properties (nuisance claims) and claims against builders, engineers, and home improvement contractors. For some claims against contractors, the governing statute of limitations is the 6-year statute of limitation provided for in Wis. Stat. s. 893.93(1)(b). The Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that this statute of limitation applies to Home Improvement Practices Code claims that are based upon alleged misrepresentations. See Stuart v. Weisflog's Showroom Gallery, Inc., 2008 WI 22, 308 Wis. 2d 103, 746 N.W.2d 762.
What about negligence claims against neighbors, builders, engineers, and contractors for property damage? Wis. Stat. s. 893.52 provides as follows: "An action, not arising on contract, to recover damages for an injury to real or personal property shall be commenced within 6 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred, except in the case where a different period is expressly prescribed"
However (and you saw that word coming from a mile away!), the legislature might soon change this statute of limitations. 2013 Assembly Bill 367 and 2013 Senate Bill 281 both propose the following change:
SECTION 3. 893.52 of the statutes is amended to read:
893.52 Action for damages for injury to property. Except in the case where a different period is expressly prescribed, an action, not arising on contract, to recover damages for an injury to real or personal property shall be commenced within 3 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred.
Though these bills have yet to make it out of committee, I presume that they will become law. I certainly encourage you to contact your legislator to register your opposition to these bills, which threaten to deny justice to numerous Wisconsin homeowners. Barring a miracle, the new law will cut in half a homeowner's time to sue for negligent construction, improvement, or design.
The bottom line is that homeowners will need to be more diligent in the future. If you discover cracks, bulges, or gaps in your driveway, siding, kitchen, bathroom, or foundation, you need to contact professionals (including legal counsel) right away!