Q: We contracted to purchase a 3-bedroom unit of a newly constructed condominium of a 16 story building in Edgewater, New Jersey 2 years ago and closed on the property a few weeks ago.

The building is still in the last phase of construction. Mostly, it is the common areas that aren’t done, but about one-third of the units aren’t finished either.

On my floor, which is the 11th floor, we are the only people who have closed out of five units. One other unit is just about ready to be closed on and 3 other units are still under construction.

The biggest problem we found after laying out our furniture and measuring for the window shades is that the floors are not leveled. The floors are wood, sitting on the concrete subfloor, and there is as much as a 1″ difference in the level.

This condo cost us over $1.5 million and we are not happy about this problem. What shall we do??

A: Did you have a professional home inspector walk through the property before you closed? If so, he or she should have noticed this problem and brought it to your attention so that you could have the builder correct it before closing.

You should be able to go back to the builder and complain, although it’s not likely that he’ll be happy about it. It is possible (although time consuming and quite expensive) to re-level floors. If the problem is the way the wood floor was installed, it will have to be picked up and reinstalled – a messy job. If the problem is the concrete subfloor, that means the wood floor has to be picked up and the entire surface of the concrete floor releveled.

You should also keep in mind that often floors are not perfectly level. There are certain industry standard tolerances that are ok. Over a long stretch of a condominium, it may not be unusual to see a 1 inch change. You would have to investigate further if your circumstances fall within the norm or if the builder failed to properly install the flooring or there is a different problem in the floor.

In any case, it’s unfortunate that you didn’t discover this until after you moved in.

Please talk to your real estate attorney (if you have one) about what your contract says specifically about the condition of the property and whether you could expect the floors to be perfectly level. Then, you can contact the builder to fix the problem.

If your builder isn’t that happy to work with you (and I don’t expect that he would be), please talk to your attorney about any legal options you have.

Published: Jul 20, 2007