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Construction cranes are spotted across the Denver skyline. Photo by Erin Skarda

Colorado Legislature Tackles the Construction Defects Conundrum

Day one of the new session brings hope that a loosening of the condo logjam might be in sight.

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In our January profile of incoming House speaker Crisanta Duran, I wrote that in 2017, the veteran legislator’s to-do list included her intention to “craft legislation that’s as bipartisan as possible.”

It didn’t take long to test that projection. On the first day of the new legislative session, Duran and new Senate president Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) announced a compromise around the construction defects issue that has beleaguered Denver’s condominium market and flummoxed local and state lawmakers for years.

The proposed bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Cole Wist (R-Centennial) and Senator Angela Williams (D-Denver), so it’s doubly bipartisan. If passed, it would take a new tack on construction defects by focusing on insurers, allowing them to share legal costs more equitably when facing a claim.

Condo developers have long complained that existing construction defects laws make it too easy for disgruntled owners to bring specious lawsuits, and that defending against such claims makes the construction of such buildings cost prohibitive. But condo owners who have purchased properties only to find serious defects still need to be protected from shoddy or unscrupulous builders.

The stalemate has resulted in an almost total shutdown of condo construction: The practice comprised only 4 percent of new home builds in Denver last year, less than 20 percent of what that proportion was about 10 years ago. It’s also resulted in more rental-only buildings going up, which have combined with Denver’s rapid population growth to drive up average monthly rental charges.

Although the bill still must come up for debate and a vote—and it doesn’t directly address our ongoing affordable housing issues—it’s still an encouraging early sign that Colorado’s long tradition of bipartisan legislating remains strong, and that we might finally get more of the entry- and mid-level properties that make it easier to become or remain a homeowner.

Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.

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