Building Envelope Inspections Gone Bad

In the past month I have been handed 5 different "engineering inspection reports" by construction consultants who have found problems or defects with construction on condominium buildings. Every one has failed to evaluate the building in terms of any damage resulting from the as-built construction, and have left the condo association with a report saying that the building has multiple flaws, but with no comment about what would be reasonable to fix the building (if anything).

"Warranty inspections" need to evaluate not just the construction details found, and installation methods used; they must also determine if there is or will be any adverse impact on the building resulting from the "defects." They also need to determine that the cost of repair to the "defects" is not grossly disproportionate to diminished value of the property resulting from the "defect."

I am also repeatedly seeing the consultants evaluate the construction in terms of the most current building code, instead of the code at time of original construction. Telling the association that there are no "air barriers" in the siding system, when none were required at time of construction is not useful. It makes it appear that the construction was done improperly, when it may have complied fully with code at the time of construction. At the same time it may lower the price that buyers might pay for a unit, because the "engineer's report" says there is a problem.

SO... before you hire anyone to conduct a warranty inspection, or a building envelope inspection, you need to make sure you know what standards you are trying to compare the as-built construction to, and you need a determination on EVERY defect claimed, as to whether it is adversely affecting the building, and whether the cost to fix is disproportionate to the change in value of the building if it were fixed.

Many consultants, and most lawyers, are trying to find as many problems as they can to maximize the claim they may make against some third party. During litigation the purpose of an inspection is not to determine what the building needs, it is to maximize the recovery. And to maximize recovery, you typically maximize the claims made. But if you are unable to recover (a common occurrence nowadays) you are left having proven defects that are not causing any damage, and no prudent owner would bother to fix them.

What's more, once you have a report that overstates the building's problems, you have disclosure requirements to potential buyers to deal with, which means you have to find some way to explain why the "defects" are not being repaired. This may require that you hire yet another consultant to opine that the building could be maintained without making repairs to all of the problems identified by the first consultant.

Use caution before you get a building envelope or warranty inspection. Price as a determining factor is likely to leave you with more problems than just the construction issues.

If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you in our future posts!

Categories: Condominium Laws