Thursday, July 18, 2013

Building construction disputes increase with rainfall and climate change

[caption id="attachment_19144" align="alignleft" width="456"]condo defect Condo defects that can occur with increased rainfall that may impact the building envelope.[/caption]

Carol Forsloff---Building envelope problems have impacted condominiums in much of the developed world, especially following booms in construction.  In places like British Columbia to the West Coast of the United States, Florida and beyond, the legal crises have continued.  These may increase due to the considerable increase in rainfall throughout the world due to climate change.

It is happening to the consternation of residents of condo complexes everywhere, as the cost of repair of water damage to the underlying structure, below the siding or outside envelope, is an expensive process that owners often don’t expect.  It can lead to threats, reprisals, divisions, community problems, long-term stress and lawsuits.

Denial is one of the first responses to a crisis, whether than is an accident a person might have or any other level  of stress where damage, or potential damage, is severe.  Folks wonder how they can afford the costs, that sometimes  is in the thousands of dollars.  Factions occur that can upset a community and cause people to be divided among themselves.    In the meantime, prices can plummet as tensions continue.

Building contractors will often declare the value of having a decent inspection.  But that inspection is one that requires specific skill in examining details and defects.

Why is that important to everyone?  Rainfalls are now excessive around the United States as well as other countries.  Most of these problems occur because initial building may not consider the potential of water problems.  Furthermore, most states have a statute of limitations that prevent home owners from suing the builder.  Usually that statute of limitations is ten years.

What about an inspection and what should be some of the aspects of the problem considered by professionals with reference to the law?  One attorney, an expert in condo law,  tells us “Warranty inspections” need to evaluate not just the construction details found, and installation methods used; they must also determine if there is or will be any adverse impact on the building resulting from the “defects.” They also need to determine that the cost of repair to the “defects” is not grossly disproportionate to diminished value of the property resulting from the “defect.”

The attorney continues to give some cautions with respect to inspections because of disclosure requirements to potential buyers that must be deal with.  One must find some way to tell that potential buyer why something has been or is not repaired.  Another consultant might be needed to give an opinion on whether or not the building can be maintained without the repairs.   So the problem is a complex one, often requiring legal consultation at the outset.  It also means that people need to agree upon who to use and why and what type of inspection experts and types of inspection need to be done at the outset.

Does this mean that a condo is a bad investment?  It can be, if the tensions persist for too long or the defects never managed or repaired.  It takes time, sensitivity to feelings, and serious communication to rectify the problems in the first place.  Attorneys may step in and give advice on what to do and when, but they may or may not be attune to the emotional aspect of the problems.  That’s where trust and communication become especially important.

Today’s building codes are different than they were 20 years ago, but those who experience problems as a result of construction limitations, or even cover-ups, must deal with the consequences now.  It is, perhaps, that statute of limitations that must be addressed and owners working in larger communities or groups of affected complexes in order to resolve the problems.

Additional ideas and suggestions on how to deal with your feelings and pictures that might raise questions about the need for a building envelope inspection are shown in a video here.