Can condo owners afford to reconstruct defective concrete foundations?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Earlier this year, I passed along some news reports of an epidemic of defective, crumbling concrete foundations in Eastern Connecticut. All of the concrete foundations were poured in the mid-1980s-1998 by contractors supplied by J.J. Mottes Concrete Company. According to state’s construction experts, the cause of foundation failures is traced to the presence of a mineral in the concrete mixture – Pyrrhotite – that starts to expand and break down the structure of the concrete after roughly 15 years, resulting in premature failure of home foundations.

Unfortunately, the reports keep coming in. The latest report includes another condo association, Ryefield II Condominiums, a 14-building complex in Vernon, CT. So far, four buildings show signs of deterioration and cracking, but experts say that every building in the complex could be at risk for similar issues, because all were supplied by the same concrete company.

According to a report by NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a previous lawsuit against J.J. Mottes dismissed claims, concluding that contractors who installed the foundations are to blame, not the supplier of the concrete. And, in any case, a 10-year statute of limitations has run out for most property owners. It’s grossly unfair, considering that defects caused by the presence of pyrrhotite don’t show up until nearly 15 years after construction. And, of course, a foundation is supposed to last a lifetime, with reasonable maintenance.

NBC goes onto report that insurance companies have been denying coverage for catastrophic foundation failures, and that the cost to repair one foundation on a single family home is in the range of $125,000 – $250,000.

For a multifamily structure, the cost for repairing all of the foundations at a large complex like Ryefield II could be millions of dollars.

An active listing for a condo at Ryefield has an asking price of $119,900, and another 2-bedroom unit is listed for rent at $1,200 per month. Clearly, the numbers don’t work out for most homeowners, who cannot afford to invest huge sums of money to remain in a very modestly priced single family home or “affordable” condo.

What complicates matters for condo owners is the fact that all owners in the association must share the cost of repairing foundations, even if they happen to own one or more units in buildings that are not (yet) affected by the crumbling foundation.

(As an aside, note that all the articles cited with regard to foundation problems for condominium owners in Connecticut point out the joint responsibility of all owners to repair common elements. This is in direct contradiction to the claims of Mallard Lakes Condo Association in Delaware, which I wrote about recently. Mallard Lakes Association is now embroiled in a complex legal dispute with owners of condos flooded by Super Storm Sandy. The Association insists that an exception written into Condominium Declarations stipulates that only the owners of 24 units in previously flooded condo buildings are responsible for paying to raise the elevations of their buildings, as required by FEMA an Sussex County building code.)

Governor Daniel P. Malloy, Connecticut is urging owners to file complaints with the Department of Consumer Protection, in order to help justify possible pubic funding to assist owners with these costly repairs. Malloy has been attempting to get FEMA involved, referring to the crisis as a “natural disaster.” So far, FEMA is not easily persuaded by that argument, blaming the problem on use of defective materials, similar to the devastating problems with toxic Chinese drywall.

Still, it’s clear that these home and condo owners are going to need some financial assistance, if not from FEMA, perhaps from some other public funding source.

What this means is that taxpayers could be on the hook for irresponsible home building contractors and/or the concrete supplier, or both. Doesn’t this negate the so-called benefits to local government constituents in terms of increased density and property tax rolls created by common interest association-governed housing?

And even if insurers do ultimately step up to the plate to provide partial relief for property owners, that will ultimately drive up the cost of insurance premiums for consumers.

Once again, the consumer/taxpayer loses, all because homes were built with unsuitable materials, and thrown together haphazardly in the interest of maximizing profits for developers, home builders, and construction companies, with the short-term promise of increasing the property tax base for local governments.

When will the madness end?


Another condo complex found to have crumbling foundations (CT)

Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 11:07 am
By Eric Bedner
Journal Inquirer | 0 comments
VERNON — The Ryefield II condominium complex is the latest property in north-central Connecticut to be found to have failing concrete foundations, bringing the total known affected multiple-unit housing developments in the area to five.
Consulting engineer William Neal of Residential Engineering Services, LLC, stated in a letter that he visited the Ryefield II complex off Loveland Hill Road in October specifically to conduct a visual examination of the foundations, and found that four of 14 buildings showed cracks “indicative of defective concrete.”
“Ten of the buildings have no visible foundation cracks of concern,” he said, but added that one building is “severely deteriorated and will need to have its foundation replaced in the very near future.”
Another, Neal says, “should be closely monitored” and the last two affected structures “are of much less immediate structural concern.”
The building with the most deterioration has one crack that is about an inch wide, Neal said, and the interior foundation in one unit of that building is bowing inward by about 1 inch. “The foundation of the building has defective concrete and is becoming structurally dangerous,” he said. “It should be replaced as soon as possible.”

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See also The Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements (CCACB)

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