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Condos v apartments

gruen
Had a client ask me to work on a condo conversion (multi family to condos) I declined due to liability. He then tried to backtrack and tell me that it's apartments after all.

But it got me thinking-what is to prevent an owner from selling an apartment building as condos after the project is complete? Nothing. How do we protect ourselves against the inevitable predatory lawyers that follow?
 
Nov 4, 14 7:00 am
midlander

I posted a link to this case before, but totally relevant here.

Based on that case, its hard to see how to protect yourself. Have you asked your insurer?

Nov 4, 14 7:45 am
Mr_Wiggin

Wow, that case is pretty scary and a definite reason to not get involved in any condo project.  Couldn't tell, I'm not lawyer, but it almost seems as if that decision absolves the developer of their actual negligence, while punishing the architect for not dictating the design to the client (which never happens)

Nov 4, 14 10:55 am
chigurh

There has got to be a way to define the project in the contracts...If you design an apartment building i.e. single owner building, they can't switch the use and resale as condos and have that fall on your liability if it wasn't clearly stated.  Talk to your insurer...I'm sure they have seen every trick in the book. 

There are also a host of land use issues that would make that difficult, including tract maps, that would have to be completed after the fact to give each condo owner their property rights.  In jurisdictions that I have worked, the permit process, is very different for condos and apartments, also forcing developers define their intent up front.

Also, this goes without saying, that the quality of construction is drastically different for condos and apartments.  You can't build some piece of shit apartments and expect to sell them in a competitive condo market..

Condos blow...9 years after construction the blood suckers come around trying to round up a class action lawsuit against the builders and design team, lawyer bottom feeders make all the money with a bunch of finger pointing in court...

Nov 4, 14 1:16 pm
gruen
Interesting case. What's to protect us from any 3rd party suit / future owner of any building type?
Nov 4, 14 2:04 pm
chigurh

statute of limitations... 

If the ownership change occurs within that period, I'm not sure...that is a question for an attorney and/or Richard Balkins Esq.  I'm sure it gets complicated.  Again with the finger pointing lawsuits, trying to identify building defects after a number of years have passed...shit, the previous owner could have cause some of em...

Nov 4, 14 2:55 pm
shellarchitect

best defense is a lack of assets

Nov 5, 14 7:57 am
Non Sequitur

Another reason I am happy to stay away from condo projects. I have a colleague who is not so lucky as he is constantly stressed about liability to the point where his office's construction drawings end up being prescriptive 1:1 details.

Nov 5, 14 9:54 am
Carrera

This is an interesting case, thanks for posting it – just too hard to live in a world where you are afraid all the time, turning work away….best just to hide your assets and let them come at you.

Nov 5, 14 10:05 am
jla-x

midlander, that case would not be limited to condos correct?  It could apply to a sf house that was contracted by original owner and then sold to another party.   Again, this is why professional licensure through the state is not in the best interest of professionals. Especially ones operating small businesses or sole props.  I never understood why architects seem to take pride in the fact that they are used as a liability sink.  Its makes no sense.  Anyone can be held liable for anything they do, but the license gives the state the power to view you as part of a group subject to special scrutiny.  

Nov 5, 14 12:02 pm
midlander

^That's my reading of this - so long as the architect knew the end users would be residents, they've got a professional duty of care for them. Maybe if your unscrupulous developer told you it's a hotel and converted to residences you'd be absolved, but that's not much help.

I think what would really serve the interest of public welfare would be that developers be licensed! Because actually they build the damn buildings, and decide how much or meagerly to accommodate the occupants.

As a sincere question, when automotive companies build a lousy or even unsafe car (as Toyota and GM have shown they can still do) are the design engineers personally liable to unhappy or dead drivers? I haven't heard of such a thing, though maybe I'm ignorant.

Nov 5, 14 12:27 pm
jla-x

Im not sure about auto engineers being held liable.  I would assume that they would absolved of direct responsibility/liability due to the fact  that they are employees of the company.  The company would likely be liable for damages, however if there was any criminally negligent decisions made by the engineers that may be a different story.  Just my guess.  

Nov 5, 14 1:34 pm
chigurh

life safety issues aside...condos are notorious for lawsuits at the end of the statute of limitations period.   Attorneys go sniffing around asking owners what is wrong with their units in an attempt to pin defects or even wear and tear on the design team and/or builder.  Get 20 pissed off home owners prompted by an attorney...you are just looking for trouble...

On the car note...you have seen fightclub right?    

"A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

Nov 5, 14 2:00 pm

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