WHO IS AT FAULT?
The concept of developer built condominiums was a great idea, but it has gone awry of late. This is evident by the large increase in complaints from unit owners. Condominium owners are unaware of problems until they move in and that is when most complaints are registered.
The traditional role of the architect/consulting engineer is to design and develop the drawings for a project, to develop specifications, detailing the quality of construction and materials expected, and, in many cases, to fully detail the methods acceptable to the project team. The project is managed during the construction by a professional team of experts on behalf of the eventual owner to ensure that the intended design was fulfilled at the site.
A developed project, while designed by a team of architects and consulting engineers, is managed during construction by the developer who at best is a flow through owner.
Long term owners of the condominiums rarely have input. Specifications are sometimes not included with the design package. Inspection of the project during construction is in many cases the minimum required to satisfy the local building code enforcement officials.
Since the units are sold off by the developer after completion of the project or during construction with the lower level units being sold as soon as completed, the eventual owners have little control and no representation for the project concerning; quality of construction, choice of trades or quality of materials used - issues that give rise to many subsequent complaints. It is not unusual to hear complaints where features promised during visitations or open houses are deleted as construction progresses.
Trades for the construction of condominiums are often chosen by the developer based on a combination of price and familiarity with the developers method of operation. Specific detailed instructions on installation or quality of product are often non-existent. Many condominiums are constructed without any formal specifications detailing the intentions of the designers. In some cases, no formal contract exists between the developer and the trades covering construction of the project. Absence of specifications or a contract make it extremely difficult after completion to establish the intention in quality of construction above minimum standards of the applicable Building Codes.
Purchasers of units who pay a premium for "luxury" quality construction and/or finishes, are often disappointed. Disappointment is particularly acute when supposedly maintenance free condominium units are purchased to replace the detached family home.
Deficiencies in construction or quality of materials, easily corrected during construction, become extremely expensive and/or impossible to correct after occupancy.
Cost of repairs to common areas are assessed to private space purchasers by the condominium corporation. This expense can be particularly distressing to individuals on a fixed income or budget which has been stretched to purchase the condominium unit.
Below are some of the more common complaints and deficiencies encountered in audits undertaken by Walters Consulting Corporation:
Deteriorating or missing expansion joints between heated and unheated portions of the structure.
The absence of caulking.
Air or water leaks around windows.
Condensation on glass units.
Cold exterior walls.
Deteriorating exterior finishes.
Stains left on masonry finishes.
Masonry stains on prepainted aluminum trim.
Malfunctioning emergency systems including fire protection systems.
Deficiencies are covered under the Ontario New Home Warranty Program (ONHWP), if documented within the required time period. The registration time frame for complaints is established from the date of registration by the condominium corporation. The warranty period varies from one year for defects in workmanship and materials to two years for certain Building Code violations and material defects, which includes building envelope deficiencies. Major structural defects can be documented up to seven years after registration by the condominium corporation.
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Walters Forensic Engineering | 277 Wellington
Street West, Suite 800 | Toronto, ON M5V 3H2