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Condo owners sue over alleged defects


After years of fighting over repairs, condominium owners at The Club at McDonogh Township have sued the developers and others this week for millions of dollars in damages on 36 allegations ranging from negligence to racketeering.

The owners' council for the community at Reisterstown and Greenspring Valley roads filed suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court, seeking damages of $2 million to $36 million from various defendants on different counts.

Named as defendants are the developer, Bancroft Homes of Greenspring Valley Inc.; its co-owners and officers, Terry M. Rubenstein and James Rubenstein; the Residential Warranty Corp. (RWC) of Harrisburg, Pa.; architect Donald Ratcliffe of Stevenson; and Signet Bank, which took over about a dozen remaining units when it foreclosed on the project in 1988.

Mr. Rubenstein and the attorneys for RWC and Signet Bank declined to comment without reading the lawsuit, which was filed June 13. Mr. Ratcliffe was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

The Club, a residential complex with 132 units in eight buildings, "suffers from a number and variety of serious design and construction defects," according to the lawsuit, involving leaking and flowing water damage to buildings and grounds.

Bancroft and the Rubensteins knew of the problems but concealed them from buyers, according to the lawsuit. Written contracts were violated, it said, and RWC failed to honor a 10-year warranty against major defects that was emphasized in marketing the units.

One count charges a violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced, Corrupt Organizations Act and seeks triple damages totaling $36 million. It alleges that the Rubensteins and Bancroft knew that RWC had failed in the past to cover legitimate claims by homeowners. Several other counts cite alleged violations of Maryland's Consumer Protection Act.

The parties have been fighting over the condominium's well-publicized problems for years, and the lawsuit details a confidential 1989 agreement that apparently resulted in repairs to avoid court action. In the end, the lawsuit alleged, those repairs "were negligently undertaken and were ineffective."

A 27-page list of alleged deficiencies includes improperly installed balconies, floors, windows and doors; improper grading throughout the complex; cracked sidewalks and patio slabs; chimneys too dangerous to use; inadequate roofs and exterior walls that were improperly braced.

Some units, the lawsuit charged, had water-permeable stucco or cedar siding that was haphazardly installed, missing studs or attached with nails that were too short. The owners alleged that some insulation, thermal glass, sealant and other water barriers were omitted, in some cases leaving a gap that "directs water down inside the wall instead of away from the wall."

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