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Condo construction defects might not come to light for years

Construction defects are surprisingly common in new condominium developments. In many cases, these defects come to light during the turnover process, when unit owners take control from the developer. However, some issues linger undetected for years. They might surface during the course of repairs, improvement projects, routine maintenance or extreme weather conditions, resulting in unexpected costs and complications. 

An extreme example

Even luxury condos aren't immune from construction issues. One recent example made national headlines when owners of a $2 million condo unit in New Jersey found bottles of urine, rotten food, urine-soaked insulation and rodents in the walls.

The couple had recently purchased the unit, and a contractor was beginning renovation work that involved opening up the walls. The owners are now in the unenviable position of wondering what else might be lurking in the walls.

The couple has sued for damages and asked that the builder open up the remaining walls to check for additional hazards. They are also alleging fraud on the grounds that the unit's supposed hurricane-proof triple-pane windows aren't actually hurricane-proof.

How to avoid these issues

While extreme, this unusual case illustrates an overarching issue that isn't terribly unusual. Many condo owners (and owners associations) find themselves confronting costly repairs months or years down the road after initial construction. A thorough approach to turnover with the help of trusted legal counsel can help avoid these headaches.

Of course, some issues - like hazards left inside the walls - can't reasonably be detected until repairs or renovations expose them. These problems might affect only a single unit (as in this case) or, if they affect common elements, they may become the responsibility of the association. In either case, recourse may still be available provided you act quickly and seek knowledgeable legal guidance.

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