Preventing & Dealing with Construction Defects An Expensive Do-Over!

Many people believe in the ethos of 'reduce, reuse, and recycle'—they buy vintage clothing, pre-owned cars, or refurbished electronic equipment. But most of us also like brand new things, including homes. And with markets across the country rebounding from the economic meltdown of the recession, new homes are becoming an option for more people and the lure of Wi-Fi, designer name appliances and other state-of-the-art finishes can’t be ignored.

Living in shiny, fresh-out-of-the-box construction sometimes comes with problems, however; leaks in condo units, mechanical problems, insufficient noiseproofing, and other issues. While it might be better if every buyer could purchase a 2-year-old, already lived-in co-op or condo unit with the creaks worked out, real estate is often about timing as much as it is about location—so you buy when you can and when the market is right.

If you’re buying new, it pays to take what steps you can to insure that the unit you're purchasing is as close to perfect as it can be. Caveat emptor isn’t just an adage to remind buyers to be careful. When the thing you’re buying is also where you’ll be living and likely represents your single biggest investment, naturally you want to protect that investment by every possible means. Ensuring your new home is in top shape before you move in is a good place to start.

Finding Trouble-Spots

Ask any real estate broker, attorney, contractor or developer about construction problems on new residential buildings, and you’ll likely get a different answer from each professional. But in the view of Manhattan-based attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, problems with construction often start at the builder/developer nexus.

“They hire the cheapest contractors, and use the most inexpensive materials,” Bailey says, adding that the top physical problems with new residential construction are insufficient coating on the roof, and incorrectly-sized boilers that area too weak for the building’s needs. Having too few elevators installed in a building also can be a problem in some new structures. Sometimes the new building lacks adequate soundproofing, or the soundproofing was improperly installed. Leaks, and lack of soundproofing between floors and walls, are two of the most common problems in new construction, says attorney Stewart Wurtzel, a partner with the Manhattan-based law firm of Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, PC. Non-compliance with building codes, such as insufficient fire-stopping material, also can be problematic.


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  • We bought our apart in 2008. In 2014 the management came in looking for a sprinkler system pipe (that serves the whole building) that was supposed to be in our apart. The offering plan didn't show any valve (so , when we bought it it wasn't disclosed to us that the valve was buried in between walls). The management had to make a few holes in the walls to find the valve. After a few guesses , they found the valve. A few months later we allowed the management and the fire inspector to come in and run a test for the whole sprinkler system. The test failed and they flooded our apart. The sprinkler system of the whole building stopped working. The management wanted to fix it right away without consulting a professional. We didn't allow the,. So they brought us to court a few months later (in the meantime a security guard was siting 24/7). The judge ordered us to let them in to fix the pipe. Then they had to remove the pipe. It's almost a year later....we are still renting, our apart is a mess because the pipe is still in. The board wants us to pay legal fees and the security guard as well before removing the pipe. We think it's not fair. Any suggestion? Is also the developer liable for not disclosing the valve in our unit?