Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Superior Court Addresses Parameters of Warranty of Habitability

In what some are calling a case of first impression, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in its November 5, 2012 Opinion in the matter of Conway v. Cutler Group, Inc., 2012 Pa. Super 242 (Pa. Super 2012 Musmanno, Mundy, J.J., and McEwan, P.J.E.)(Opinion by Mundy, J.), that home buyers who are not the original owners, purchasers, or users of a home may still bring an implied warranty of habitability claim against the builder of the premises if defects are discovered.

The Superior Court panel unanimously rejected the trial court’s decision which had dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim in this regard against the builder on the basis that there was no privity of contract.

The Superior Court ruled that, because the doctrine of implied warranty of habitability applies to “defects which would not be apparent to the ordinary purchaser as a result of a reasonable inspection,” the issue of whether or not the current home owner was the original purchaser or not was “immaterial.”

The court also noted that a “second or subsequent purchaser is entitled to the same assurances as the original purchaser that the home the builder has constructed is habitable for human living.” This is particularly so because, as noted by the court, “the builder is the party with the ‘necessary expertise’ that the initial purchaser does not possess” in terms of finding latent defects.

The Conway court otherwise indicated that, under the implied warranty of habitability cause of action, the homeowner must still show that the “…alleged defect is latent, attributable to the builder’s design or construction, and affects habitability.” The court also noted that “all homeowners must still bring their claims within the 12-year period set out by the statute of repose.”

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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