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The buyers of new condominium units and their homeowner or condominium associations can obtain relief for defects like leaky roofs and windows, bad flashing, violations of the construction codes and any other construction defects that affect their ability to use the home for its intended purposes.  D.C. Code defines structural defects broadly.

  • The DC Condo Act provides a statutory warranty. During the first two years, unit owners and associations are protected against defects that restrict the normally intended use of the space as well as those that impact safety and structural integrity. DC Code §42- 1903.16. Any claim for defects occurring in the first two years must be brought within five years from the start of the warranty period. The warranty starts with the conveyance of a unit, or for common areas, with the conveyance of the first unit in the development.
  • A condo developer in DC is required to post a surety bond with the DC government for ten percent (10%) of the cost of construction. The bond may be released after two years have passed without a claim.  The DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) makes and initial determination of liability on the claim.  The initial determination can be appealed to the DC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).  A bond claim should be supported by a report by a professional engineer licensed in DC and by three bids by contractors showing the cost of necessary repairs.  If you suspect that your condominium has construction defects, you should obtain advice as soon as possible.  It can take weeks or months to identify the problem(s) and to prepare the necessary materials.

Home buyers and condo associations who cannot obtain full relief under the Condo Warranty law may have other remedies.

The District of Columbia has one of the strongest consumer protection acts in the country.  The Consumer Protection Practices Act (CPPA) provides for actual damages, reimbursement of attorneys’ fees incurred by a consumer who is a victim of unfair or deceptive practices and the potential of penalties and enhanced damages.  Unfair or deceptive practices include a failure to disclose code violations, construction defects, and may include a failure to disclose any other problem with real estate that might tend to lead a reasonable consumer to buy a property they might not have bought had the matter been disclosed.  DC Code §28-3904.  A developer, seller or builder may be liable for failure to disclose defects they should have known about, even if the consumer cannot prove they actually knew.

  • CPPA claims must be brought within three years after discovery of the problem that was not fully disclosed, or the discovery of any other potentially deceptive practice in connection with the sale. The discovery of a hidden defect might be long after the two-year warranty has expired.
  • CPPA claims are not limited to the 10% bond. The developer, the seller, the builder, or any other party who violates the Act can be fully liable.
  • CPPA claims may be brought against the individual or entity that engaged in unfair practices. It is not limited to the company that developed the condo project, or built the home.
  • The risk of a substantial attorney fee award, and potential damages enhancements gives the developer a strong incentive to settle a CPA claim as early in the dispute resolution process as possible.

Homeowners and condominium associations may also have good claims under contractual warranties and implied warranties.

  • Contractual warranties are governed by the terms of the contract and are often of short duration and limited coverage.
  • District of Columbia law is unclear on the extent of an implied common law warranty. Such a claim would likely be available if asserted within three years after discovery of a defect – which may occur long after the purchase of the home.

Assets to satisfy construction defect claims can often be recovered through insurance policies held by developers, builders or subcontractors.  A good construction defect lawyer can help you find available assets and to structure your claims to improve your chances of collecting the money needed to remedy the defects.

Frequently Asked Questions

A. Under the D.C. Condo Act Warranty Provisions, a developer is strictly liable for structural defects in the project. And structural defects are broadly defined in the Act.

A. A developer or seller is liable to a purchaser under that Act if they fail to disclose a material fact to a purchaser before selling a unit to that purchaser, at least where they knew or should have known of that fact. The existence of a significant defect is likely to be considered a material fact. Therefore, that fact must be disclosed to the purchaser, at least where that defect should have become apparent to the developer during construction, or at any later date prior to sale.

A.  Because some condo projects are developed by companies established solely for a particular development, it can be hard to identify assets to satisfy a warranty claim.  The DC Condo Act requires a developer of new condo units, including the new construction portion of a conversion project, to post a bond for 10% of the construction costs with the D.C. government.  Unit owners or associations can make a claim against the bond by sending the required materials to the DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).  The DHCD determines liability and its ruling may be appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

A. It depends on the basis for the developer’s liability and on the nature of the construction defect. The statutory condominium warranty covers defects occurring within two (2) years from sale of the first unit (for common areas) and from sale of each unit (for defects in the unit). It can be asserted within five (5) years after the warranty starts. A Consumer Protection Act claim must be brought within three (3) years of the time the defect (failure to disclose) is discovered.  A contractual or implied warranty may have a different limitations rule.

A. There is no provision in the Condo Act for an attorney fee award in favor of the prevailing plaintiff. However, under the D.C. Consumer Protection Practices Act, a successful claimant under that Act has a right to receive an attorney fee award.

A. The fact that a developer entity no longer has tangible assets doesn’t necessarily mean a claimant cannot obtain a recovery. Most developers have liability insurance, and the insurance may cover some or all of a developer’s construction defect liability. Also, the developer’s contractors may have assets, and those contractors’ own insurance policies may cover some or all of their liability for the defects.

A. Depending on the strength of the case, yes. We also offer hybrid arrangements involving combinations of hourly and contingent fees.

A. It depends on the terms of our attorney-client agreement. However, we normally seek to recover on the client’s behalf some or all of those expert fees and costs from the developer. If we include a claim that the developer’s conduct violated the Consumer Protection Act, we would also include a claim for an award of attorney fees to our client, as under that Act the court has the power to make an attorney fee award to a prevailing plaintiff.

A. A claimant will have a right to a jury trial unless there is an enforceable arbitration clause in sales agreements or other applicable documents requiring the arbitration of all claims. However, most claims are resolved before trial because most claims settle before the scheduled trial date.

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If you have a claim of this kind, please call us at 202 288 5643 or complete this form below and one of our lawyers will contact you. No charge for the initial consultation.

    Did the seller disclose the defect(s)?
    Was a seller's real estate agent involved?
    The attorneys at the DC Consumer Law Group, PLLC are available to discuss your legal issues during an initial consultation without fee or obligation. All consultations with our attorneys are confidential. Should you decide to retain our law firm to provide legal services, we offer a variety of billing options including: hourly legal services; contingency fee representation based on the outcome of litigation in select cases; and hybrid arrangements customized to your needs.

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