While new condominium construction is often viewed as premium real estate, the old adage “all that glitters isn’t gold,” holds true in many cases. Some condominium owners, sadly, have found that builders may have cut corners on workmanship and materials, leading to failing structures—sometimes within a few short years after all the residents moved in.
Take, for example, a recent $5.4 million judgment awarded to residents of a premier San Francisco luxury condominium building. This landmark decision, the largest per-unit recovery ruling in California, netted $169,000 per owner of the 32-unit building. The problems owners battled ranged from water intrusion—roof and window leaks and ensuing mold inside units—to deck failures and exterior walkway safety issues.
In New England, similar issues arise, explains Attorney Henry Goodman, a partner with Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, with offices in Dedham, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. “I am aware of a few builders who are conscientious and build quality projects. Most, including many nationally-known builders, construct a fine façade but they may as well have built their projects out of paper mache,” says Goodman. “Their interest is in marketing, building and getting out with as much profit as possible. Other than trying to avoid claims of defective construction or breach of warranty, they do not appear to be interested in quality.”
John Reddy, president of Continental Building Consultants, located in Hampton, New Hampshire, notes, “There will always be an element [developers], whether criminally or negligently, that are looking to cut corners and make a quick buck.” As a result, prospective buyers must beware of the tell-tale signs of poor workmanship. However, it is not always noticeable by an untrained eye.
“Whether or not a builder is using cheap or expensive materials isn’t as important as the workmanship,” says Reddy. “The construction industry has improved greatly over the years in terms of best practices and materials, but that doesn’t mean everyone is following these best practices.”