Transition from developer to unit-owner control of a residential community association generally unfolds in one of two ways. In many instances, the “Transition” process is uneventful – there are no major design or construction defects and the sponsor/developer works with the association board to amicably resolve all outstanding matters such as completing punch-list construction items, making sure the association’s reserves and other accounting matters are complete, release of bonds, etc.

While a peaceful Transition is often accomplished between a unit-owner board and sponsor/developer, there are unfortunately some instances when Transition is not so easy and litigation ensues.

Typically, Transition litigation arises when there are major design/construction defects which are too costly for the sponsor/developer and the contractors to voluntarily repair. When Transition litigation becomes inevitable, the following are three important steps a board can take to minimize costs and maximize potential recovery:


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The good news is that owners can reduce construction costs and risks. Following are Stark & Stark’s Top 10 tips for owners to consider:

  1. Refinance. You can cut construction costs, improve loan terms, and reduce risks by taking advantage of low interest rates, rising property values and available financing.
  2. Obtain Competing Proposals. You

For a newer community association board that has recently undergone transition from developer to unit owner control, there is significant temptation to accept a quick, lump sum settlement from the developer to “settle” any remaining punch list items. New board members are often in active and frequent communication with the developer, including any developer-appointed (non-unit owner) representatives who are still sitting on the board. In addition, developers are often willing to work with associations up to and during transition to resolve any outstanding construction issues. With a seemingly cooperative developer on the one hand, and the immense costs posed by litigation on the other, boards frequently adopt a “take what we can get” approach to resolving outstanding issues with a developer rather than digging in and using the threat of litigation to leverage a better settlement. At best, this approach will most likely result in the association leaving money on the table; at worst, it will cost unit owners tens of thousands in future special assessments.

When a developer sells 75% of the units in a condominium or home owner association development, majority control of the association board is turned over to unit owners from the developer (who, up until this point, had its own representatives controlling the board). During this process, known as Transition, a developer’s primary concern is to pave the way to selling off the remaining units, obtain releases of its performance bonds and, most importantly, get the association to sign a litigation release that will prevent the association from ever suing the developer in the future. In order to get a litigation release, the developer will often offer a seemingly large sum of money. Often, the amount the developer offers actually exceeds the cost to fix any open punch list items that have yet to be completed. This seemingly generous offer by the developer is designed to tempt the board into quickly releasing the developer from any future claims.


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On January 7, 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered that six putative class-action lawsuits stemming from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio will be venued and centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
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