High-end Sunrise condos plagued by leaky roof, other problems, owners say

Developer blames some of the issues on condo leaders failing to maintain buildings

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

BSusannah Bryan

Published May 13, 2012

SUNRISE -- Condo owners at Artesia thought they'd done everything right.

Their Mediterranean-style luxury condos were newly built by a well-respected developer. Priced from $300,000 to $600,000, they should have been perfect.

But now residents of the four-story condo towers at Artesia say they're victims of shoddy construction. They point to leaky roofs, cracked walls and rotting fascia boards.

The developer, Minto Communities, blames some problems on the condo associations failing to maintain the buildings. Minto, while insisting the condos were built to city code and meet construction standards, has promised to make repairs anyway, said Steve Svopa, the company's vice president.


"We want to do the right thing," Svopa said. Construction on all 356 condos -- spread over six buildings at Artesia -- was completed between October 2006 and February 2008. Problems appeared not long after, said Patrick Horan, a retired contractor and condo association president at Artesia.


"We purchased a luxury building," Horan said. "We did not buy low-income housing that meets only the minimum requirements of code."

Condo owner Terrence Duffy shows broken concrete on the roof of a building at the Artesia development in Sunrise. Leaky roofs. Cracked walls. Bubbled roofing are some of the resident complaints.


Horan said he first noticed a problem with his building's roof in 2009.

"It is deteriorating in front of our eyes because of the way it was installed," said Horan, who bristles at Minto's claim that the associations have failed to maintain the buildings. "The roof is bubbling. It started in 2009 with small pancake bubbles and it has just grown. Minto has been stalling. We have six condo buildings. All six have complained."

Terrence Duffy bought three condo units at Artesia as an investment five years ago.

Duffy believes the developer or its subcontractors cut corners to save money and failed to follow their own building plans -- a charge Minto disputes.

"It is our opinion that if the construction had been done correctly, we would not be experiencing the problems that have been so prevalent," said Duffy, secretary and treasurer for one of the condo associations.

Minto has been quick to make repairs to the condos themselves but has ignored problems in the common areas, he said.

A Florida law that takes effect July 1 makes owners, not developers, responsible for repairing flawed construction in common areas like sidewalks and roadways. But the new law likely would not apply to the condos at Artesia, Svopa said.

"Isolated issues magnified by the lens of a close-up photo are to be expected in any community, especially several years after the completion of construction," Svopa said. "Others may be of understandable concern. Importantly, Minto and its subcontractors have investigated all of these issues, and have agreed to correct virtually all of the items raised, whether or not they are the fault of the associations' lack of ongoing maintenance or construction issues."

Some defects may not show up for years after you move in, said Gary Singer, a real estate attorney based in Sunrise. You might assume the buck stops with the developer, but that is not always the case.

"If you look at the Chinese drywall cases, the manufacturers were liable," Singer said.

The developer is typically responsible for fixing construction defects, but they may blame it on lack of maintenance, Singer said. Often times, the conflict winds up in court.

"It's going to come down to a war of building experts," Singer said of most courtroom battles between condo buyers and developers. "Who's going to get the blame? It's going to pass around to several parties. Who's going to pay for it? A lot of times, the residents get the short end of the stick."

In the case of the Artesia condo buildings, Minto has promised to fix the problems, but Svopa said "the associations have not provided their approval."

Condo officials at Artesia dispute that claim.

In frustration, they have appealed twice to officials at Sunrise City Hall first in January and again in April. They found sympathy, but no offers of help.

"This is a civil matter between the homeowners and the developer and, aside from trying to help facilitate dialogue between the parties, it would be inappropriate for the city to impose itself into the process," city spokeswoman Christine Pfeffer said.

Some wonder why the problems weren't caught during city inspections.

"While some things may be concealed during an inspection, there are plenty of things that could have easily been noticed during construction," Duffy said. "In this case, it appears that we slipped through the cracks." 

Sunrise says its city inspectors are not to blame.

"The buildings passed all of their building inspections and received their certificates of occupancy, but there is no way of knowing today what problems may or may not have been visible to inspectors years ago," Pfeffer said.

Artesia's condo owners have complained for the past few years about leaking roofs, Duffy said.

"They are blaming the installer and/or the materials supplier for the roof," Duffy said of Minto. "They have indicated a willingness to continue to patch active leaks as they occur, however this is not acceptable to us. We want a proper roof, properly installed." 

Duffy now regrets buying his three condos at Artesia, where he said units are now selling for an average of $160,000 -- nearly half their purchase price. He believes the sluggish economy is only partly to blame.

"We believe we have exhausted all reasonable options, with the next step being a lawsuit," he said. "We have not filed yet, but it may become our next move."