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A Conversation About: Faulty New Construction

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Malamu
We have had serious condo issues and were recently working with a lawyer to pursue the developers, but the legal fees were so much we had to end our relationship. The lawyer achieved nothing. Part of our case was with the attorney general in New York City, and they really didn’t do much either. For example, they subpoenaed the developers who did not respond, and [then] the AG [attorney general] decided not to do [any more]. In the meantime, the building, which is not even five years old, continues to decay. On top of that, we have learned that the architect and plumber used in the building process are recognized “criminals.” With all of this evidence and clear structural oversight, we cannot seem to get anyone on our side. Our next thought was going to the press, but owners are reluctant. We sorely need advice and guidance – and perhaps some retribution. Can anyone advise?

C/CS
Hard to comment without knowing the scale of the problem. How many units? Cost to repair known issues? (You have secured an engineer’s report, right?) Knowing the ratio of legal costs to repair costs (they rarely scale at the same rate), and how these expenses will amortize per apartment, can be important for making sound decisions. Separately – why did the AG break off pursuit after accepting your case?

The press is a hard thing to “manage”; sometimes it’s like letting a genie out of its bottle. Here’s a current case where owners were sharply divided on that strategy, and a splinter group proceeded without accord (too soon to know how this story ends):

http://tinyurl.com/CurbedPR

http://tinyurl.com/BrownstonerPress

Another key factor is whether the developer is out of the building, or still owns units (and is on your board).

Malamu
If you can imagine the multiple structural issues in new construction, then those are the ones we have. These began shortly after the units began to sell. The sponsor, who was, I think, still on board for a bit of that, addressed some and then disappeared. The sponsor is no longer involved.

We did everything from engineers’ reports to photographs; we provided the lawyer with every piece of proof we had. The AG worked with an internal engineer who, it was clear, had a bias toward the developer, and chose to identify a few issues. While we were pursuing our case, many other key structural elements began to decline: bad roof (also not insulated), flooding in basements because of the absence of proper plumbing and check valves (which we are installing now), broken pipes that have caused severe internal leaks, poor pointing on the brick that allows water to seep into the apartments, poorly installed wiring; the list goes on.

So, now we are trying to catch up on our expenses while also tackling repairs. I feel like there is no oversight of developers, and if this is happening all over the city, why isn’t there some activity around that? I think I might have to organize a group.

Curious
I understand your issue; we have one also. New construction, bad defective construction. Get the press involved; have the press call out the AG, and all agencies and developers. Don’t know if it will do much, but getting a group together and pursuing that avenue on TV and other outlets will bring attention to others in the same position and hopefully embarrass all agencies including the AG for not taking a stand, including inspectors at the DOB.

jr
It is a risk if anyone wants to sell a unit, but perhaps if publicized via a news story or in print the offending parties at least have to respond. Also, see if you can get NYC building inspectors involved – there may be violations the developers will be required to address. What is your management company doing? Maybe consider a new company that has experience in this area. Good luck.

 

Board Talk is an online discussion forum where board members can post questions to which other board members can respond. This month, a condo struggles with corrupt developers, greedy lawyers, and an apathetic Attorney General.

Want to participate? www.habitatmag.com/activities/board_talk

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