How Do I Force a Developer to Finish Construction Work in My Building?

Issues like this come up often in new construction, as owners are left sparring with developers to get work done and problems corrected. The situation is complicated because individual owners generally cannot make a claim against a developer for problems with the common areas. If the floors in your apartment warped, for example, you could press the developer to fix them. But only the board has the power to make claims for problems with the issues like the lobby, the elevator or roof. So, until the owners have control of the board, and not the developer, your options are limited.

As a unit owner, you can seek help from the state attorney general’s office now. “The attorney general does have a lot of power,” said Ms. Cummins, and can investigate, mediate or even, in extreme cases, take action on behalf of unit owners, as the office is “essentially the gatekeeper for all new condos or co-ops.”

Once that next apartment sells and the owners take control of the board, hire an engineer or architect “to be your eyes and ears,” Ms. Cummins said, as larger problems may be lurking beneath the surface. The building systems, like the roof and heating, should have warranties, and if you have concerns about defects, you will need to assert those claims as soon as possible before any statues of limitations expire.

The developer does have an incentive to finish this work — until it’s complete, the building cannot get a permanent certificate of occupancy. But you may need to ramp up the pressure, once you can, to get it done. To that end, the new board should hire a lawyer, ideally one familiar with new construction, who can advise. “I’m generally averse to litigation, I think it’s terrible for everybody,” said Ms. Cummins. “But sometimes it’s unavoidable.”

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