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Brown v. Hovnanian at Newark Urban Renewal Corporation II, Inc.

A-0119-96T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1997) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTS; WARRANTIES—Five years after purchase of a condominium unit, a buyer sues for breach of an implied warranty of habitability. Buyer loses. Developer is not a landlord and has no duty to control the conduct of noisy owners.

In June, 1990, a buyer purchased a new condominium unit from a developer. In 1995, the buyer brought an action seeking recission of the contract of sale, reimbursement of the purchase price, and compensatory damages because of excessive noise emanating from an upstairs unit, claiming the noise resulted from poor workmanship, construction defects, and faulty materials. After presentation of testimony, the developer moved for dismissal because of the absence of expert testimony to support those claims. The motion was granted and the buyer appealed.

The buyer claimed the trial judge erred in granting the motion because her showing that the loud noises were audible in her apartment was sufficient to demonstrate a breach of the implied warranty of habitability. She also contended that the developer should be held to the standards of the Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act. The Appellate Division held that five years after the sale of a condominium, a developer-seller cannot be held to the same standards as a landlord with respect to the habitability of a unit. While a landlord may have control over the conduct of tenants, a developer has no such control. The Court also held that technical subjects, such as defects in workmanship, construction or materials, require the aid of expert opinion before being submitted to a jury. Accordingly, the Court found no error by the trial court and upheld dismissal of buyer’s complaint.


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