Shoddy condo construction lawsuits in Colorado just got harder to file, but that doesn’t mean development slumber is over

Declaring that the measure “will help make our housing more affordable,” Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed into law one of the most hard-fought compromises of the 2017 session — a bill that will make it more difficult to sue builders for shoddy condo construction.

Business leaders for years have been seeking wholesale reforms to the state’s construction defects laws, blaming the state’s dormant condominium market on a legal environment that they say enables an excessive amount of lawsuits against developers. That, they argue, drives up insurance costs, leading developers to avoid building condos entirely in favor of rentals.

House Bill 1279, which took effect immediately when the governor signed it Tuesday, requires a majority of a condo complex’s unit owners — rather than just its homeowner association board — to consent to legal action against a developer for poor construction.

The scene at the Capitol was a celebratory one, with dozens on hand for the bill signing. Hickenlooper at one point remarked that it was the “most commotion” he’d ever seen for such an event. So many people wanted a ceremonial pen that Hickenlooper wrote one or two letters of his name at a time as he signed the bill.

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The unusual pomp and circumstance was as indicative of the difficult road to passage as it was of the significance of the legislation itself. Construction defects litigation has been hotly debated for years on end, with no legislative successes until this year.

But even as they celebrated, politicians and proponents of reform alike stressed that the measure was just a “first step” to solving the state’s attainable-housing woes. The piecemeal approach taken by lawmakers this year left issues ranging from insurance costs to arbitration unaddressed — and it remains to be seen whether House Bill 1279 on its own can stir the condo market from its slumber.


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