City, home inspectors fail to identify defects in condo and HOA construction

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


If you are in the market for a new or recently renovated home or condo, view the following reports first.

Word is beginning to spread across the country, with an epidemic of poor design and shoddy construction, especially prevalent in condominium projects and all types of planned communities governed by homeowner associations.

The common theme: housing consumers cannot count on city and county inspectors to prevent construction defects and potential health and safety hazards.

It seems that no one is closely monitoring mass production of housing or development of private communities. Instead, over burdened and understaffed municipal and county building departments assign code inspectors that conduct cursory evaluations of construction at critical stages of completion.

And, as it turns out, not all private home inspectors conduct thorough and competent inspections either. While a standard home inspection cannot be expected discover hidden defects behind finished surfaces, it should uncover obvious flaws and safety hazards. But sometimes, in the interest of getting homes sold, real estate agents and home builders work in tandem with home inspectors that gloss over major, easily discoverable problems.

Below are several media investigations and real life examples of homeowners and residents coping with poor construction that could and should have been prevented in the first place, or at least noticed and reported following the usual home inspection.


In this report from a Chicago CBS affiliate, condo owners are saddled with inadequate heat for their unit, unsafe venting of heating exhaust gasses, and leaky windows that allow snow to accumulate indoors. Condo owners are suing the developer, city inspectors, and the private home inspector. One home inspector claims that 50% of the properties he inspects uncover serious defects that were somehow missed by previous inspections. 

2 Investigators: Inspectors Missed Major Condo Defects, Suit Says

July 13, 2017 10:36 PM

(CBS) — A couple buying their first new home together relied on a private home inspector, city building inspectors and a warranty that came with their new $600,000 condo.

But as CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman found, none of that protected them from alleged construction defects, including the heat in their home, the roof over their heads and even the air they breathe.
With Chicago in the midst of a residential construction boom, this is a cautionary tale for anyone in the market to buy.

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A Florida townhomes association is suing the developer, claiming multiple defects that violate local building codes, including deficiencies in their fire safety system. Where was the fire code inspector at the time of construction? 

Somerset Chase Homeowners Association alleges townhomes violate building codes (FL)

by Jenie Mallari-Torres | Jul. 17, 2017, 7:24am

ORLANDO – A homeowners association alleges that the property was negligently constructed and violates state building codes.

Somerset Chase Homeowners Association Inc. filed a complaint on June 16 in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida – Orange County against CalAtlantic Group Inc., also known as CalAtlantic Homes and formerly known as The Ryland Group or Ryland Homes; and Ryland Homes of Florida Realty Corp., alleging violation of building code, negligence and other counts.

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A New York Times article points out an obvious flaw of association-governed, common interest housing: developers that build housing communities also control the association’s board of directors for several years, perhaps even more than a decade. Homeowners or shareholders are prevented from pursuing many defect claims until the developer hands over control of the association to its members. 

As in other states, New York condos are commonly plagued by defective and leaky exterior facades, windows and doors, and plumbing. Some buildings do not meet fire safety codes, or have inadequate heating and air conditioning systems. But developers form LLCs – shell corporations – in order to shield themselves from liability, making it difficult and costly for owners and their associations to recoup the money they need to repair and rebuild. Special assessments are often necessary, with no guarantee that owners will be made whole following a legal settlement. 

City inspectors failed to notice most of these defects. And a typical condo inspection just examines interior units, not the building itself. 

New Condo Complaints Heat Up

JUNE 30, 2017
360 View

New York Times, Real Estate

Look back to the end of the last housing cycle, and the downturn was marked by a flurry of complaints from condo owners and their boards against developers, claiming defects in new or renovated buildings. Roofs and pipes leaked, balconies crumbled and facades cracked. The ensuing lawsuits dragged on for years, as homeowners struggled to recoup their losses.

Now, as another round of homeowners settles into new apartments, the complaints are rolling in again. Lawyers say they are fielding as many calls from anxious owners and condo associations as they did in the early 2000s. The problems, they say, are similar to those that plagued properties when the housing market crashed in 2008.

“As the market softens and developers rush to get projects done, corners are invariably cut,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a real estate litigator and founding partner of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas.

So far, few condos built since late 2011, around the time the housing market began to recover, have filed lawsuits. This is partly because owners are just now beginning to assume control of the properties — the developers typically control condo boards for a number of years after the building opens. But lawyers expect the lawsuits to pick up again soon.

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In planned communities, homeowners often share financial responsibility for infrastructure such as private roads, parking areas, storm water management systems, and more. In this Arizona townhouse community, residents have been dealing with recurring large sinkholes in their roads for at least 7 years. The builder says the roads were improperly compacted at the time of construction, and it is working on making repairs. But homeowners are not confident in the developer’s repairs, given the poor track record so far. 

How was improper compaction of roads missed by local road inspectors at the time of construction?

Benson neighborhood plagued by holes forming in street

Posted: Jul 28, 2017 8:29 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 28, 2017 8:51 PM EDT
Written By Aalia Shaheed

Residents in the Kartchner Vistas community in Benson says holes forming in the ground have turned their dream homes into nightmares.

Megan Hege said she first began to notice the issue after she moved to the neighborhood around seven years ago, and it hasn’t improved since.

“They’ll come and fill the holes, and then people drive over it and it sinks right down again,” she said. “I have a sixteen year old driver and we have to tell him to watch out for the divots in the road because we don’t want a sinkhole to open up beneath him.”

Stephanie Arrington said she watched in horror as an entire garbage truck fell into a massive hole in the street in front of her home.

“This was our retirement home. And I don’t feel safe here,” she said. “I truly believe at any time I could drive out from my home and it could go into a crevice.”

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