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Condominiums and Measuring Square Footage

There are two basic methods of calculating residential square footage. The first is generally described as the “paint to paint" method which provides the number of square feet of liveable space. The second method of measurement is the “center of party wall" method which may include things like the interior of walls and support columns.

Owners who believe their condominium unit is undersized may bring legal action for fraud (intentional misrepresentation), negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, untrue or misleading advertising, and/or other related claims designed to compensate owners for the promised square footage.

Developers, however, may attempt to deny these legal claims by saying the square footage figures represented in floor plans or marketing materials are approximations and/or are accurate based on measurements which include other areas such as exterior hallways, interior walls, balconies, patios, etc. Additionally, developers may use disclaimer language in bulky purchase documents attempting to limit their liability. Pursuant to California law, however, it is against public policy to exempt a party from liability based on a violation of law.

In California, the law does not allow recovery for misrepresentation of square footage if there is a small / de minimus discrepancy between the advertised square footage and the actual square footage. However, the issue is what amount of discrepancy is required to maintain a strong legal claim against a developer? Another issue is how long after purchasing the unit does the owner have to initiate legal action? Also, what if all or most of the units in a condominium development (possibly several hundred units) are smaller than originally represented to the buyer? Each of these factors must be considered prior to initiating legal action.

This material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. Please be mindful the law changes over time. You should always consult a licensed attorney based on the specific facts of your situation.

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