McGovern, Knauer, Boggs: An Elite of D.C. Condo Owners Would Hit the Ceiling—Except for the Risk
Since much of Knauer's furniture is Queen Anne or Chippendale, her apprehension is understandable. So is the distress of other residents of the building, including Congresswoman Lindy Boggs, Amtrak President Alan Boyd and a host of high-powered lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers who paid between $100,000 and $200,000 for their apartments three years ago. Several weeks ago Mace Broide, executive director of the House Budget Committee, and his wife, Gloria, an antiques dealer, began spending their nights in a guest room after they measured a seven-inch dip in their bedroom ceiling. Soon afterward a huge section of the ceiling collapsed, terrifying a workman who had arrived to investigate. "The developer was ridiculous," Gloria Broide says. "He took a magnificent building and did a fourth-class renovation."
Cafritz, of course, disagrees—through his attorney. "The developer made it very clear to everybody that this was an old building," says Eugene Propper. "When a 65-year-old ceiling comes down, it's not a defect, but age." The units were sold "as is," and Propper points out that since the sale the apartments have doubled or tripled in value. If $3 million in damages were actually awarded, he notes, the sum divided among the 26 units would exceed the amount that some owners paid for their apartments. The residents, however, remain conspicuously unmoved by such reasoning. "As I understand the 'as is' condition, you may be stuck with an old-fashioned bathroom or hideous walls that need painting," says one of the owners. "But it does not mean that the building can be falling apart at the seams."
Ironically, during her White House days, Knauer supported a homeowner's insurance plan that encouraged consumers to protect against such calamities by taking out 10-year warranty policies on new homes. Refurbished condos were not included. Now director of a consumer-issues consulting firm, Knauer was not particularly alarmed by the three-inch sag in her dining-room ceiling until she heard of the trouble in her neighbors' apartments. She has frequently warned home buyers, "Don't ever move in until you have your own contractor check on the wiring, the plumbing and all other structural units." Why didn't she follow her own advice? "I fell in love with this place," she says with a sigh, "and I didn't stop for anything."