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Court Favors Builder Over Homeowner Association

If your homeowner association is planning to build community facilities, you'd better make sure your building contractor does a good job. Filing a lawsuit after the fact is usually just a way to spend more money on legal fees, rather than recover the money you lost. And if a recent court ruling is any indication, you may be on shaky legal ground. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled recently that a common legal protection against faulty home construction did not apply to a swimming pool clubhouse.

In the DuPage County lawsuit, the Bloomfield Recreation Association sued Hoffman Homes over material defects in the clubhouse, including a leaky roof and malfunctioning swimming pool equipment. The association sued under the Implied Warranty of Habitability that most commonly applies to construction defects in homes. In 1978, Illinois courts started applying the warranty to disputes between homeowners and builders, sympathetic to the plight of homeowners who put their life savings at risk. The courts wanted to assist the homebuyer and even the playing field in dealing with more experienced construction firms.

The implied warranty holds that if some condition causes a home to be unfit for habitation, the builder can be sued. Typically, the defects have to be serious enough to force occupants to move out, if left unfixed, defects like a structurally unsound floor or failed heating system in winter.

Not so when it comes to the association's community clubhouse, said the Illinois courts, which refused the association's argument to apply the IWOH concept. Association lawyers said that the clubhouse should be considered part and parcel of the homeowners' dwellings, similar to a rec room in a home. Both the DuPage County Court and Illinois Supreme Court disagreed. Although the concept does apply to defects in common areas that affect condo units, attorneys for the builder said the clubhouse didn't qualify.

Sources used to create this article include writer David Mack and the Chicago Sun Times.

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