Dealing with New Building Construction Woes When Newer Isn't Better

You can't walk around in any community these days without spying a new construction project—rows upon rows of condos seem to go up overnight and there's no shortage of people looking to get while the getting is good on brand new buildings with fancy amenities, new windows and doors, and not a whiff of anyone else's previous ownership.

But a spanking new building isn't exempt from typical development problems—leaky faucets, drafty windows and thin walls can plague new buildings as well as old, no matter what promises the developers make when selling the units. And sometimes, problems that arise with new buildings are a lot worse than a running toilet. Shaky foundations, shoddy carpentry and sloppy finishing can all make a new building less valuable (and more soul-killing) than one that's been around since the 19th century.

Whose Fault Is It?

While it's true that the responsibility of a building's upkeep falls on the shareholders and management, it's hard to blame the new owner or management company for less-than-solid construction. After all, they usually have very little to do with the first stages of building (i.e., land surveys, sewage pipe tests, etc.) However, it's precisely this inexperience that can lead to conflict between unit owners and construction companies when a shiny new building shows flaws.

Dennis Estis, an attorney with Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP in Woodbridge has represented a large number of condominium associations and cooperative corporations, and developers in numerous condominium construction cases for over two decades. "Expectations are usually much too high on the part of the unit owners, especially since they may not have had any experience with new construction," says Estis, who co-authored the New Jersey Condominium and Community Association Law (Gann Law Books), which is considered to be the authoritative text on the topic. "Thereafter, it becomes a combination of poorly drawn and/or inadequate plans and specifications; oversight during construction; poor workmanship by the contractors and/or their subcontractors; and inadequate review by the local building officials, as well as some other issues that are suis generis to construction in general."

Leaks, Tweaks

The list of potential problems in any building is large, but within new buildings, one problem tends to rear its head more than most. Andrew Amorosi is principal of The Falcon Group, an engineeringfirm in Bridgewater that provides civil and architectural engineeringservices to condominium, co-op and homeowner associations, as well as capital reserve analyses services. "The most common (or glaring) defect that we see always seems to be related to the lack of attention to detail related to the prevention of water infiltration into the building envelope," says Amorosi, whose firm also performs design services for re-construction projects. "This mainly relates to roof installations, siding, EIFS, Stucco, cultured stone or brick facade installations. Obviously water entering into the building envelope is a critical defect that needs to be repaired."

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