E.S. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have 36 single-family detached units and 101 town home units. We own one of the single-family units. In trying to sell our unit, structural engineers have identified our unit as having faulty common elements (support beams, concrete slab and poured concrete walls are tilting) due to the fact that required support piles were never installed by the developer 16 years ago. We had our unit appraised and because of the condition of the common elements it has zero market value. We want the association to waive our dues or compensate us in some fashion for the loss of value. The association has responsibility for the repair, replacement and maintenance of the common elements. We requested that the association buy us out at average sale price more than a year ago, and they declined.
We don’t have enough money to sue the association. How can we get compensated for common elements that destroyed our property value?
Mister Condo replies:
E.S., I am sorry for this terrible situation. I assume you have contacted an attorney to represent you, even if you don’t sue the association. You will very likely need legal advice to get this situation corrected. The association is not likely going to waive your dues or compensate you for the loss of value by purchasing your property. Very likely, they are under no obligation to do either. The association does have a responsibility to repair, replace, and maintain common elements for all unit owners, including yourself. The association may have the ability to go after the original developer in a construction defect lawsuit but, in addition to being costly and time-consuming, that won’t produce results any time soon, if at all. The association should speak with their own counsel to see what remedies are available to them. As for your situation, you do need to find out what steps the association is going to take to remedy the damage caused by the missing support piles. If they are simply stating they are not going to do anything, you have a big problem that may require suing the association. You mentioned that you couldn’t afford to do that but you may have no choice but to find the money to do so. If the association is willing to fix the problem, you may be displaced for a while. My understanding is that the home would have to be jacked up and have the support piles installed before being returned to its current position. If you have homeowners’ insurance you may have a clause that will help pay for housing during this displacement. That would certainly help. At the end of the day, you have a significant problem that will require a significant (and legal) solution. I know I wouldn’t go it alone and I would hire an attorney to assist. Even if you don’t fully hire an attorney, you should at least invest in an initial consultation. Additionally, is yours the only home in this situation? You mentioned 35 other single-family homes. If yours was built in a faulty manner, perhaps others were as well. It might make sense for you to speak with other homeowners in your community. It would be less expensive for you if multiple parties were involved in this action. Good luck!