Florida_Supreme_Court_buildingIn the recent case of Maronda Homes, Inc, vs. Lakeview Reserve Homeowners Association, the Florida Supreme Court held that the builder/developer of a subdivision warrants not just the sale of a new home, but also must warrant the viability of the infrastructure and roads that support the subdivision.

In the case, Maronda Homes and its contractor constructed the roads, pipes and drainage system of a subdivision where Maronda built and bought new homes.  After many of the homes had been sold, the subdivision infrastructure began to fall apart:  driveways flooded and collapsed, the soil underneath the homes began to erode, storm retention ponds overflowed with stagnant water sitting in yard for days, and water pooled in dry areas that were not fenced causing child safety concerns. The homeowners association brought suit against Maronda, alleging that the implied warranty of habitability that runs from a builder/developer to a buyer of a new home should include not only the habitability of the house structure itself, but also includes the essential structures that support the subdivisions.

The trial court ruled for the builder, holding that Florida law allowed a buyer of a new home to sue the builder/developer for defects in the home itself, but not for any defects in the roads, or other structures that support the subdivision. The homeowners association appealed the decision, but the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, and held for the homeowners associations.

Maronda Homes appealed the Fifth District Court’s decision in favor of the homeowners to the Florida Supreme Court. While the case was pending before the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida legislature passed a law designed to stop the lawsuit against Maronda homes and deny the additional protection to Florida homeowners:

WHEREAS, the Legislature recognizes and agrees with the limitations on the applicability of the doctrine or theory of implied warranty of fitness and merchantability or habitability for a new home as established in the seminal cases of Gable v. Silver, 258 So. 2d 11 (Fla. 4th DCA 1972) adopted and cert. dism, 264 So. 2d 418 (Fla. 1972); Conklin v. Hurley, 428 So. 2d 654 (Fla. 1983); and Port Sewall Harbor & Tennis Club Owners Ass’n v. First Fed. S. & L. Ass’n., 463 So. 2d 530 (Fla. 4th DCA 1985), and does not wish to expand any prospective rights, responsibilities, or liabilities resulting from these decisions, and

WHEREAS, the recent decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal rendered in October of 2010, in Lakeview Reserve Homeowners et. al. v. Maronda Homes, Inc., et. al., 48 So. 3d 902 (Fla. 5th DCA, 2010), expands the doctrine or theory of implied warranty of fitness and merchantability or habitability for a new home to the construction of roads, drainage systems, retention ponds, and underground pipes, which the court described as essential services, supporting a new home, and- 26 –

WHEREAS, the Legislature finds, as a matter of public policy, that the Maronda case goes beyond the fundamental protections that are necessary for a purchaser of a new home and that form the basis for imposing an implied warranty of fitness and merchantability or habitability for a new home and creates uncertainty in the state’s fragile real estate and construction industry, and

WHEREAS, it is the intent of the Legislature to reject the decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal in the Maronda case insofar as it expands the doctrine or theory of implied warranty and fitness and merchantability or habitability for a new home to include essential services as defined by the court, NOW THEREFORE, Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office defended the legislation on the grounds that the law would keep the cost of living in Florida low.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Fifth District Court of Appeal, and ruled for the homeowners association. The Court stated, in very strong language that the Legislature had overreached its authority in enacting the statute, in abrogation of the private property rights of Florida citizens.

The Court, in holding for the homeowners, noted that the single largest investment a Florida citizen makes in his lifetime is a home, and emphasized the strong public policy in protecting homebuyers who, of necessity, must rely on the expertise of builder/developers for the proper construction of subdivision infrastructure.