Is the Developer Liable for Providing False Square Footage and Ceiling Heights?

Condominium owners often wonder if the information they were given about the size of their unit is correct. They find themselves asking questions such as: Is it really 1,000 square feet? Or: That second bedroom looks kind of small — Did I get cheated? Is the ceiling really 10′ high? Isn’t that what my contract said it should be?

Well, there are two ways that developers and architects can measure footage of a condominium unit, and both are widely accepted: 1) From inside wall to inside wall — meaning, from the surface of the drywall on one wall, to the surface of the drywall on the wall across from it; this is commonly called the “paint to paint” measurement. 2) From the outside wall of the unit to the middle of the opposing wall.

In a recent case, Kirkpatrick v. Strosberg, 2008 Ill.App.LEXIS 358 (1st Dist. 2008), the condominium owners sued the developer because they felt that the square footage of their units was less than what the developer had stated when marketing the property. However, the court found that the developer measured from the outside wall of the unit to the middle of the opposing wall, and that this was a standard practice. Therefore, the developer was not held liable on this count.

However, in the same case, the condominium owners also alleged that the developer had stated that the ceilings in the units were 9′ high, when in fact they were only 8’6″ high. The developer claimed that per the contract each unit buyer had signed, the dimensions were simply approximate and subject to adjustment. The court found that on this count, the developer had acted in bad faith because the location of pipes, ductwork, and other items built into the ceilings could not possibly allow room for 9′ ceiling heights.

Of course, each case is different. If your fellow condominium owners feel that they were deliberately misinformed when purchasing their units, then their best bet is to consult with an experienced condominium attorney to determine if they have a case against the developer.