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Dear PoP – Problems with Developer

by Prince Of Petworth March 24, 2010 at 2:30 pm 71 Comments


Photo by PoPville flickr user Hoodsweatsh

“Dear PoP,

I recently purchased a condo conversion in a 4 unit townhouse. 3 of the 4 units have been sold. Over the last 6 months, I have encountered one problem after another. The other owners were experiencing similar problems and we have grown close when we started comparing notes.

We are currently having structural problems with our building (leaky roof for example) and hosts of issues dealing with shoddy workmanship. The builder, in effect, hires unlicensed workers for work and he cuts corners wherever he can. For example, our gas lines were installed improperly, causing a gas leak in our building 3 months ago.

The builder’s name is well known at the DCRA. We have initially consulted with a lawyer, who pulled a record of active lawsuits against him in MD and DC. There were pages and pages of lawsuits against him. As you probably know, builders who do condo conversions are legally bound to post a bond with the city. The bond is to cover items under warranty. When I called the DCRA, they could not find a record of his bond.

My neighbors and I are currently exploring our options. One of them is a lawsuit. We haven’t hired a structural engineer to assess the whole building, but based on our known problems, we believe the damages are not worth more than $30K, maybe $50K tops. This is a lot of money for us, but clearly not a lot of money to a lawyer or a real estate mogul. The builder also clearly knows the ins and the outs of the legal system and uses that to his advantage. Our lawyer friend (who we have not retained) played out a likely scenario:
-lawyer files lawsuit and sends notice to builder
-Builder ignores all letters
– lawyer serves builder
– Builder appears in court, represents himself, and feigns ignorance and or innocence and asks for an extension
– new date appear, builder does not appear
– Builder drags this out…
– etc etc
Meanwhile, our legal fees would mount and our lawsuit drags on.

The builder has economy of scale on his side, and he wins many battles because his accusers give up.

If you could reach out to your readers and ask them about their experiences, that would be a big help. The three of us owners of the building are all single women, middle class, and in our late 20s and early 30s; we inexperienced in these matters.”

This sounds absolutely brutal. Does the lawsuit scenario sound likely? If anyone else dealt with a similar situation – how’d you resolve it?

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