HABITAT

LEGAL/FINANCIAL

When Construction Is Faulty, There’s Power in Numbers

New York City

Condo Defects
Nov. 2, 2018

It seems to happen with every cyclical economic upturn and accompanying building boom: as unit-owners move into newly constructed condos, they’re shocked to discover that their apartment and the rest of the building are riddled with construction defects. What’s a dissatisfied unit-owner to do?

"The first thing I would do is find out if other people in the building are having the same issues," attorney Jeffrey Rendin, a partner at Wagner Berkow, tells Brick Underground. "There is power in numbers. If it is an issue that affects more units, it could be indicative of larger issues in the building." 

The next pressing task is to go to the condo offering plan to find what are called the notice provisions, according to Rendin, who, until recently, supervised enforcement of condo development for the state Attorney General’s office. 

"Oftentimes when it comes to latent or patent defects, the plan spells out a specific time limit for bringing these issues to the attention of the developer," Rendin says. 

Depending on how long it's been since the developer started selling apartments in the building, the developer (or, "sponsor") could still control the building's board, as it still owns most of the units. In that case, your band of disaffected apartment buyers would need to meet on your own and retain a lawyer. If the board is resident-controlled, the board could go through its usual lawyer, but Rendin recommends making sure that lawyer is versed in condo and construction defect law, particularly if things progress beyond the initial complaints to actual litigation. And litigation can be a costly, drawn-out process

Before suing, unit-owners need to weigh risk and potential reward. "Legal action is a business consideration as much as a legal one," Rendin says. "If it's going to cost $200,000 in legal fees to get $100,000 worth of work done, it's probably not worth it. If it's $10 million worth of problems, that's another thing."

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