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Eight Buyers Sue 1521

By January 29, 2009

1521

Eight buyers are suing 1521’s developer because they are upset with the entry way to floor plan A. This isn’t a new issue, I’ve blogged about it before. And in fact, I toured the unit recently and wouldn’t have guessed that floor plan A was the problematic one. My advice to these buyers would be to get some art on the walls with some tasteful lighting, and this entry way issue goes away entirely. My advice to developers is to over communicate any changes to plan as soon as possible. Buyers hate surprises, especially on the day they write a check for a million dollars.

The developer claims it built an elite, high-end condominium project. Eight buyers have now sued that developer, saying that their units have entrances that are less than high end, and lower than promised. The buyers filed suit today in King County Superior Court, seeking return of their deposits and damages against Opus, a major northwest developer. Opus is finishing the high-rise condominium project at 1521 Second Avenue in downtown Seattle . The condominiums are “designed exclusively for the confident few,” according to Opus’ literature. The website refers to “unparalleled interiors,” and “generously proportioned” spaces. Prices start at $1 million, and prices for upper units exceed $4 million. The project has 148 units on 38 floors. The buyers allege that Opus and its “development partner,” William Justen, specifically promised 8-foot doors and high ceilings. The entries to the units in question now have 7-foot doors and ceilings as low as seven feet. The complaint alleges that the changes breached the contracts for purchase of the units. It seeks return of deposited funds and unspecified damages. Opus claims that its agreements allow it to make changes to the design of the entry. It has refused to refund any of the buyers’ money. Opus also refused the buyers’ requests to have the problems corrected or to be moved to comparable units with the promised door and ceiling heights. Opus says most of the units in the project are already sold, and that it will not make changes for aesthetic and structural reasons. “When you are paying more than $1 million for a relatively small condominium, the appearance of the front entry is critical,” said Breffni McGeough, one of the purchasers. “Opus prepared marketing literature, a model unit and architect’s plans that all show 8-foot doors.” “Even the contracts that Opus prepared specify 8-foot doors,” said Mark Clausen, the Seattle attorney for the buyers. “When you are paying the prices Opus charges for a condominium, there is no question that the changes to the entry are material changes. The entry heights now are more like a college dorm room than a condominium with a sales price of seven figures.” Clausen said that, under the Agreements, Opus was required to notify the buyers of the changes and give them the opportunity to nix the deals. Opus allegedly did not give that notice to any of the buyers. Opus’ promotional literature does refer specifically to door and ceiling height. William Justen is managing director of the Samis Company, a partner in the venture that built the project. From 1978-85, Justen headed the City’s Department of Construction and Land Use. In marketing the project, Justen prepared a number of “Desknotes,” about the projects features and design. In several of them, Justen specifically call for 8-foot doors and ceilings higher than 9 feet. Closings of the sales of units on the project began last month. The buyers who sued, however, say they will not be completing the purchase of their units because of Opus’ hard line. “Opus has used a very high-handed approach in dealing with us,” said McGeough. “They have not been willing to sit down and discuss a solution. Opus has left us with no choice but to take the matter to court.” Opus has not responded to the complaint.

Mark A. Clausen 701 Fifth Avenue • Suite 7230 Seattle, Washington 98104 OFFICE (206) 223-0335 • DIRECT (206) 340-1550 • FAX (206) 223-0337 E-Mail: mclausen@clausenlawfirm.com