Once in a while, I used to get the crazy idea that it would be fun to own a condo. I was probably attracted to the relatively low price tag (compared to SFHs). However, whenever I looked into it, I was always turned off by the ridiculously expensive Home Owner's Association fees, usually ranging from $250 to as much as $500 per month. "What could be that expensive," I thought... Well, here's a good example of why condo associations frequently have to stockpile so much money: leaky condos and MIA builders.
The owners of 20 Ballard condominiums have fallen victim to the Legislature's good intentions.The article discusses the builder tactic of forming an LLC, building the condos, then dissolving the LLC. Apparently this tactic has increased in the past "as the boom hit and [the builders] built so many of the darned things." Under a new state law, condo owners can still sue the LLC for up to three years, but after that you're pretty much out of luck.
The Ballard Square Condominium Owners Association sued the building's developer, Dynasty Construction Co., in 2002, claiming that their recently built homes were riddled with leaks that had caused extensive building damage and asserting that Dynasty failed to meet construction standards.
The problem was, Dynasty was dissolved in 1995, and superior and appeals courts said the owners could not sue a corporation after its demise. But the owners appealed to the state Supreme Court, which heard the case earlier this year.
Ballard Square had missed its opportunity. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the case.
Lara Stack moved into Ballard Square 4 1/2 years ago, several years after leaks were discovered and repaired, and a month before owners found more extensive problems.
"Water was seeping inside the stucco of the building through many different entry points," said Stack, who is the vice president of the association.
Deck structures and wood framing also were starting to rot, she said.
In 2000, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, proposed requiring certain guarantees from homebuilders, including five-year protection from defects resulting in water penetration. The bill never got a vote.
"I had just been thinking about reintroducing this bill again," she said.
But this is all too late for the residents of Ballard Square, who are spending $1.8 million to fix their building (not to mention legal fees), and are living through renovations that are now halfway done.
"We don't have privacy. There's dust everywhere," Stack said. "We just want to move on and have it complete."
Food for thought if you're looking at condos as a way to save you from being priced out forever.
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 11.10.2006)