Condo defects? Council bill would make developers pay

Measure proposes 10 years of accountability for construction and design flaws

Council member Diana Ayala (Council.NYC.Gov, iStock)
Council member Diana Ayala (Council.NYC.Gov, iStock)

The unit was modern and pristine, but three years later the ceiling leaks, the walls are cracked and the floors are warped.

Such complaints about construction defects are relatively common among New York City condo owners, even at the city’s most exclusive addresses. 

But some of those unlucky homeowners may soon have new recourse: A City Council bill would put developers on the hook for repairs needed within 10 years of a “homeownership” project being completed.

As written, the legislation would only apply to condo and co-op projects receiving financial assistance from the city such as financing, tax breaks, loans and other benefits. But Council member Diana Ayala, the bill’s sponsor, said these parameters will likely change.

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She pointed to Colin Powell Apartments in Hunts Point as an inspiration for the bill. Residents of the affordable co-op building complained about cracks and leaks a few years after it opened in 2010.

Affordable, city-subsidized homes would be the target of the measure, Ayala said.

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“We want to make sure that we are building with good quality materials,” she said in an interview.

Problems caused by homeowner negligence or intentional destruction, as well as natural disasters, would not be covered by the measure.

Stuart Saft, chair of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums and a partner at Holland & Knight, said the bill would chill condo and co-op development.

It would be difficult to prove damage resulted from a defect rather than homeowner neglect after nearly a decade of use. He said a two-year window would be more reasonable.

“No developer is going to want to build, plan and simple,” he said. “If the Council member wants to do something that makes sense, it can’t be 10 years. That is a lifetime.”

Owners of condo and co-op units have largely relied on civil litigation to be compensated for defects discovered after they move in. Last year, the condo board at 432 Park Avenue sued the tower’s developers, alleging an array of construction and design defects, including flooding, broken elevators and noise from the ultrathin building’s sway.