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July 1st, 2016
architects and engineers
ILLINOIS APPELLATE COURT REFUSES TO EXTEND THE IMPLIED WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY TO ARCHITECTS

In Bd. of Managers of Film Exchange Lofts Condo. Ass’n v. Fitzgerald Associates Architects, P.C., 2016 WL 2841978 (Ill. App. May 11, 2016), the Appellate Court of Illinois consolidated three appeals and affirmed the lower courts’ decisions not to extend the implied warranty of habitability to architects. All three consolidated cases involved condominium boards bringing actions against architects for breach of the implied warranty of habitability, a claim typically alleged against the developer.

 In the first case, the Film Exchange Lofts Condominium Complex sued Fitzgerald Associates Architects, P.C. for ponding and surface deterioration as a result of drainage issues.  In the second case, the Buena Pointe Condominium Association sued Piekarz Associates, P.C., the architect, for brick and masonry cracking allegedly as a result of design defects. In the third case, the Residences of Riverwoods Condominium Association sued Hartshorne Plunkard, Ltd., the architect, for numerous deficiencies in Hartshorne’s design.  Plaintiffs in all three cases argued the design deficiency constituted a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

 In all three cases, the lower courts granted the Architects’ dispositive motions seeking dismissal of the implied warranty of habitability claims, holding the warranty did not apply to architects.  The lower courts noted the implied warranty of habitability traditionally applied only to developers or builder-vendors, but Illinois had extended the implied warranty of habitability to include subcontractors in Minton v. Richards Group of Chicago, 452 N.E.2d 835 (Ill. 1983).  The lower courts then determined Minton did not directly apply to architects, and the policy reasons behind extending the warranty — allowing an innocent purchaser of defective construction to obtain relief where a builder-vendor is insolvent — likewise did not apply to architects.

 Plaintiffs appealed the decisions, arguing if the implied warranty were not extended to architects, buyers would be left with no recourse for design defects when there is no recourse against the developer.  The Appellate Court rejected the Boards’ argument, noting the implied warranty of habitability was a result of the unusual dependent relationship between property buyers and builder-sellers, and the role of an architect does not create a dependent relationship with the buyers, like the one that existed in Minton.  The Appellate Court affirmed the lower courts’ decisions refusing to extend the implied warranty of habitability to architects. 

The holdings represent the shift away from judicial expansion of the implied warranty of habitability, which had been extended to entities that did not have a direct relationship with the buyer. Rather than extend the warranty further, the Appellate Court recognized a distinction between architects and subcontractors because architects do not take part in the construction and are not warranting the habitability of the building simply by designing it.

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