A condo community in Wayne, New Jersey is experiencing a case of sticker shock after its residents learned they would have pay for foundation repair work.
NorthJersey.com reported that the owners of condo-townhouse complex Brittany Chase is on the hook for nearly $3 million after it was discovered that the foundations under two of its townhouses are failing. The community’s homeowners are being assessed to fund the costs, even if their own homes are not affected.
In a June 20 letter sent to Brittany Chases unit owners (which was later posted in NorthJersey.com), Jennifer Alexander, the condo association's attorney, wrote that the soil beneath the two townhouses “has been consolidating over time. The cause is improper compaction, or in other words, a construction defect.” While Alexander said that the blame falls on the developer, it is unlikely the community could recover damages because the statute of limitations for bringing cause of action is six years.
Based on the calculations listed in Alexander's letter, the total repair cost for Brittany Chase, which consists of 395 condominiums and townhouses, would be $2.6 million. Each owner, according to NorthJersey.com, could be assessed for as much as $11,044, depending on the size of his or her apartment.
The assessments were initially due August 1, but later postponed until further investigation, according to Alexander's letter.
At the moment, according to Alexander, micropiles have been installed to firm up the soil - work that will take about three months. “They are much more solid, and they require the unit owner(s) to be out of their homes,” she explained.
On whether insurance can cover the losses, Alexander's letter stated that it was unlikely, given that the community's insurance policies are for “accidents” or “occurrences,” and that insurance companies do not insure for construction defects. She also added that the building inspectors and the municipality “are not liable as a matter of law,” saying a building inspector is not expected to be an insurer of the quality of the construction, and that municipalities have limited resources.
On September 19, Brittany Chase owners appealed to the Township Council for help; some of them reportedly face having to use their life savings to pay the assessments. One resident, Batia Kramer, said at the meeting: "We have so many people in the community that cannot afford it. For those people, I beg of you to help them."
While sympathetic to Brittany Chase's situation, Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano said the township would not get involved in the matter. "This is a private issue among your association,” he said. “We just can't give you tax-exempt status for a few years, and say, 'don't pay your taxes'."
In her letter to the owners, Alexander added a sobering reminder of the dire nature of the situation. “If the Board could remove this burden from your shoulders, it would. The Board members pay the same assessments you do...At the same time, the lives and circumstances of your fellow unit owners are at stake here too.”
David Chiu is an associate editor at The Cooperator.