Community Associations

Liability insurance policies insuring sponsors, general contractors, subcontractors, and design professionals are confusing and loaded with complex terminology that make them difficult to understand. Yet, it is these policies that hold the key to the ability of a community association to recover damages from design and construction deficiencies. Rather than making your eyes glaze over by going through a lengthy analysis of the arcane language of these policies, here, in a nut shell, stripped of the legal jargon, are the basic concepts you need to know:

Continue Reading How Can the Community Association Collect From Insurance Policies Insuring the Sponsor, General Contractor, Subcontractors, and Design Professionals?

Stucco is a product that has been in use as an exterior building cladding since the early 1800’s. It is made from Portland cement, sand and water. When installed correctly, stucco has been a reliable building material that looks good and allows incidental moisture infiltrating behind the stucco to be safely and efficiently evacuated from the building. Once stucco dries it is as hard as concrete.

Continue Reading What’s Wrong With the Stucco on Our Buildings?

If your community association is involved in matters requiring the hiring of experts, including, but not limited to, transition-related issues, or in evaluating what to do about design and/or construction deficiencies, financial irregularities, or environmental concerns, among others, the association is going to need to engage one or more experts to assist in investigating and determining the cause and scope of each problem, a protocol for fixing each problem, and evaluating who is responsible for the damages sustained by the association.

Continue Reading A Cautionary Tale: Resist the Impulse to Exert Pressure on Your Expert to Give Opinions They Don’t Really Believe

Brick is among the materials that are most commonly used as an exterior cladding material on condominiums and other residential buildings in New Jersey. If correctly installed and maintained, it will usually last for the life of the building without allowing water to penetrate inside the wall cavity where it can damage sheathing and framing. Nevertheless, we are routinely called upon to assist condominium and homeowner’s associations that have reports of damage to their buildings caused by deficient design and/or installation of brick.

Continue Reading What Can the Association Do About Damage From Water Infiltration Through Brick?

Your community association may become aware of significant transition, design, and/or construction defect claims. This awareness may come from the association receiving complaints from unit owners, or perhaps your property manager or a transition engineering inspection report will have visually identified issues of concern. Whatever the source of the Board’s knowledge, in exercising its fiduciary responsibilities, the Board members may find themselves confronting a potentially expensive decision fraught with all kinds of financial and political consequences. Does the association litigate all the way to trial if necessary? Does the association file suit to posture that it is serious about litigation, and then settle without going through expensive depositions? Does it negotiate with the sponsor, knowing that the association will not litigate but will take whatever it can get?

Continue Reading Factors to Evaluate in Deciding Whether the Cost of Litigation Is Worth the Likely Return on Investment

It has been several months since the New Jersey Supreme Court decided Cypress Point Condo Ass’n v. Adria Towers, LLC.

The issue in Cypress Point was whether rain water damage caused by a subcontractor’s faulty workmanship constituted “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” to trigger coverage under a condominium developer’s commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy. Cypress Point, a condominium association, filed claims against Adria Towers, the developer, and its insurers, as well as various subcontractors. Adria Towers was also the general contractor on the condominium project and hired the subcontractors who performed the construction work. The Association alleged faulty workmanship during construction and claimed consequential damages.


Continue Reading What Should Condominium Associations Do After Cypress Point?

The November 16, 2016 issue of the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Celebration, Florida, which is the master-planned community built by The Walt Disney Company in 1996. The title of the article summarized the state of affairs in Celebration as follows: “There Is Little Celebration in the Town Disney Built: Mold, leaks, rot are hurting the 1990s utopia; ‘they’re harassing my team.’” My initial thought was that if this can happen to a community built by the world’s most famous mouse, it is little wonder that a large portion of my practice involves representing community associations in lawsuits against developers and architects for construction and design deficiencies.

Continue Reading Disney-Built Community Faces Serious Construction Deficiencies

Stark & Stark Shareholders Randy Sawyer and Andrew Podolski have successfully settled the Lakeside at North Haledon Condominium construction defect case for $7.4 Million.

The case involved serious design and construction defect claims which caused damage to common elements from water infiltration through and around stucco, manufactured stone veneer (MSV) and other exterior cladding systems, plus roofs, windows and balconies. This is an impressive result because the case involved challenging insurance coverage issues related to policy exclusions for synthetic stucco trim and the lack of proof of consequential damage to sheathing and framing.


Continue Reading Lakeside at North Haledon Condominium Construction Defect Case Successfully Settled for $7.4 Million

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.


Continue Reading Tempted By A Quick Transition Settlement? Not So Fast!

Stark & Stark’s nationally recognized Construction Litigation group has scored some recent victories, advocating for community association and condo community clients while negotiating two major settlements in complex construction defect litigation claims for nearly $10 Million.

Most recently, the group skillfully negotiated a settlement on behalf of a Condominium Association in excess of $5.75 Million for a complex construction defect case against more than 45 defendants involving damages from water infiltration to 188 condominium units spread over 26 buildings. Stark & Stark Shareholder Andrew Podolski took the case from inception, developed and implemented the strategy, and otherwise put the case together for a jury trial. Trial was scheduled to begin on May 23, and was expected to run more than 2 months. The ramp up of trial prep activity and the looming trial date ultimately brought the defendants to the table for rigorous settlement negotiations. Drew was ably assisted in the litigation of the case by Associate John Prisco, who took some of the depositions, helped plow through a mountain of discovery materials, and did outstanding work on numerous motions and assisted with trial preparation.


Continue Reading Stark & Stark Scores Recent Settlement Victories for Condo Communities Totaling Nearly $10 Million