TURNOVER? WHY YOU NEED TO HIRE AN EXPERIENCED CONSTRUCTION LAWYER RIGHT AWAY
“Turnover” may be the most important event in the life of a condominium or homeowner association. Turnover transfers association governance from the developer to directors who are answerable solely to members and their wallets. Newly-minted owner-directors must manage millions of dollars of infrastructure such as roads, drainage systems, ponds, lift stations, and pools. For multi-family buildings, this can also include building roofs, stucco, paint, waterproofing and balconies. Florida law imposes a fiduciary duty on these volunteer directors to make well-conceived, long-term plans for maintaining and replacing these assets. The critical nature of this planning suggests that every post-turnover board consider hiring an experienced construction claims lawyer to assist in guiding the association through a successful completion of the turnover process. Let’s explore 3 reasons why this is so.
- The developer wants to walk away scot-free.
At turnover most developers want to resolve any lingering, obvious construction quality disputes with a cash settlement and a general release of all future construction-related claims. Working in tandem with the right forensic engineers, a construction attorney can assess whether there are any non-obvious, latent construction defects impacting the useful lifespan of major common elements. By foregoing this critical guidance the board may financially short-change its members, setting them up for large, unanticipated maintenance, repair and/or replacement assessments in the future. Don’t fall victim to releasing a developer, only to later discover hidden construction defects requiring a surprise assessment.
2. The clock is ticking
Florida community associations have just ten years from completion to discover hidden construction defects and to sue the developer for compensation. In our experience the worst construction defects are rarely obvious. Hidden defects in roads, drainage systems, roofs, building envelopes, foundations and the like are rarely discovered without the right types of forensic investigation. An experienced construction defects lawyer knows what types of investigations to recommend in order to discover ticking time-bombs which may not go off until after the developer’s immunity kicks in.
3. Statutory Warranties for Condominiums
Florida condominiums get an added benefit of extremely valuable, but limited-duration, warranties from their developers. Warranty claims are particularly impactful because the association need only prove that the covered element was defective within the warranty period. This is another example where an experienced construction attorney can assist in guiding forensic engineering investigations for maximum impact. Defects discovered outside the warranty period are often less valuable litigation claims against a developer than those discovered during the warranty period. Don’t give the developer another free pass by ignoring the compelling compensation value of latent defects discovered while the developer’s warranties are in existence.
To conclude, post-turnover, volunteer board members carry a heavy burden to be good stewards of their community’s infrastructure, avoiding the surprise of unexpected repair or replacement needs. An experienced construction defects lawyer is crucial in guiding a new board through a complete investigation of its potential claims against the developer, ensuring that the developer – and not the association – bears full financial responsibility for the developer’s defective work.
Article Authored by Jon Lemole Esq., Partner of Tannenbaum Scro Lemole & Kleinberg’s construction and litigation sections. Mr. Lemole received his undergraduate degree from Villanova University and his juris doctorate from Case Western Reserve University Law School. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, New Jersey and New York.