This past summer, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion which directly
impacts the relationship between homebuyers, homeowners associations,
residential developers and builders. The opinion seeks to empower homeowners
associations and places the burden to discover and prevent defects on
developers and builders rather than innocent homebuyers.
Lakeview Reserve Homeowner's Association sued Maronda Homes (the developer)
for breach of the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness and habitability
(these warranties serve to guarantee the home is reasonably fit for the
general purpose for which it was sold) after discovering a number of construction
defects within the subdivision's roadways, drainage system, retention
ponds and underground pipes.
The Florida Supreme Court made two very important determinations:
First, the Court held that the implied warranties of fitness, habitability
and merchantability apply not only to the individual home itself, but
extend to the common area infrastructure improvements that provide
essential services for the habitability of the homes (it doesn't matter whether they
are actually attached to the home itself). Services which merely provide
convenience or aesthetic beauty are non-essential services and thus, are
not covered by the implied warranties.
essential services: roads used for entering and exiting the subdivision, drainage systems
to divert flooding, retention ponds to correct water flow damages, and
underground pipes (storm water and sanitary pipes) which are necessary
for living accommodations.
non-essential services: landscaping, sprinkler systems, recreational facilities, and security systems.
Second, the Court held that homeowners associations have the right to sue
for breach of the implied warranties of fitness, habitability and merchantability
on behalf of the individual homeowners.
Due to the continuous growth of new developments in Florida, as well as
the vast number of relatively new developments already in existence, the
Florida Supreme Court's decision will no doubt have a significant
impact on the residential construction market. The Court's opinion
is a big win for homebuyers and homeowners associations, as they can now
hold the developers and builders responsible for common area defects and
the burden of fixing those defects will fall on the shoulders of the developer
and builders rather than innocent homebuyers. Developers and builders
will need to be extra-vigilant during the construction process, as they
now bear increased responsibility to provide high quality workmanship
and to prevent the occurrence of construction defects.
Alex P. Rosenthal, Esq.
Rosenthal Law Group
2115 North Commerce Parkway
Weston, FL 33326