June 30, 2008
CONDOMINIUMS-COMPLETION OF THE COMMON ELEMENTS
By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
You asked if there is a state agency that assists condominium unit owners who are in a dispute with the developer regarding the completion of some of the common elements.
No state agency has jurisdiction over disputes between a condominium unit owner and the condominium developer (the law refers to this person as the declarant). Instead, the law gives unit owners the right to sue a developer who has not completed common elements that he has promised to complete in the condominium declaration or other document. Such a lawsuit would probably include a claim that the declarant has breached the contract with the unit buyer to complete certain construction or other improvements and that he or she violated certain provisions of the condominium documents that represented that the work would be completed.
If a declarant or any other person subject to the common interest ownership act (CIOA) fails to comply with any of its provisions or any provision of the declaration or bylaws, any person or class of persons adversely affected can go to court for appropriate relief. The law allows a court to award punitive damages for a willful failure to comply with CIOA. It also authorizes a court to award court costs together with reasonable attorney's fees if the unit owner prevails.
If such a lawsuit were brought, a key issue would be whether the declarant promised that a particular building, structure, or other improvement would be a part of the condominium or whether he or she indicted that it might or might not be completed.
The law requires that every condominium's declaration include surveys and plans. A survey may also show the intended location and dimensions of any contemplated improvement to be constructed anywhere within the common interest community. Any contemplated improvement shown must be labeled either “MUST BE BUILT” or “NEED NOT BE BUILT” (CGS § 47-228).
The law also requires the declarant, before offering any interest in a unit to the public, to prepare a public offering statement conforming to the requirements of CIOA. A public offering statement must contain or fully and accurately disclose certain information including a general description of the common interest community, including to the extent known, the types, number, and declarant's schedule of commencement and completion of construction of buildings and amenities that the declarant anticipates including in the common interest community (CGS § 47-264(a)(2)).
A unit owner might also be able to get some assistance from the local land use commission or board that granted the developer permission to build the condominium. Sometimes the board or commission will require a developer to post a bond to guarantee that the developer will complete certain work that is part of his plans. If that is the case, the board or commission might use some or all of that bond money to complete unfinished work.
There was a bill introduced this past session that did not pass that would have created the Connecticut Community Association Commission within the Department of Consumer Protection. It would have empowered the commission to receive complaints of violations of the Condominium Act and Common Interest Ownership Act by associations or their governing boards or officers (sSB 706). We have enclosed a summary.