Lawsuit filed against Norristown for nightmare condo
NORRISTOWN, Pa. - May 7, 2012 (WPVI) -- Former residents of a condo building that turned into a nightmare have filed a federal lawsuit against the borough of Norristown.
Attorney Charles Mandracchia says until now, the only one being held accountable for the mess that the Rittenhouse Club Condominium project turned out to be was the builder, Robert Bruce Fazio.
He's been charged with risking a catastrophe and reckless endangerment after serious structural defects were found in the five-story building at 770 Sandy Street.
The alleged defects claimed the structure was so poor the building could collapse, exposed wires throughout, fire stairs made of wood, not metal per code, and a sprinkler system that wasn't working.
The building was condemned two years ago, and since then, homeowners have been forced out of their homes.
"I've spent $28,000 in rent since then and the bottom line is all of this is because Norristown completely failed me," homeowner Ryan Schofield said.
Schofield is one of nine homeowners being represented by Mandracchia in a federal lawsuit that alleges none of this would have happened in the first place if the borough of Norristown had been properly inspecting the building as it was being constructed.
An independent review commissioned by Norristown concluded that at the time, back in 2006, Norristown's building inspections department was in transition without leadership, that there had been a loss of key personnel and there was a lack of oversight.
"They had secretaries signing permits. This is not something that we determined; this was something that was done by an independent company, the Keystone Report," Mandracchia said.
That report found that all required building inspections were not completed or were performed improperly. The result was that "the structure did not meet construction or safety standards and...thus uninhabitable."
"Sure, Bruce Fazio built a terrible building, but I wouldn't be in that property if Norristown had not given me a certificate of occupancy to live there," Schofield said.
"Just because you're in transition, it doesn't mean you still don't inspect buildings; it's just outrageous," Mandracchia said.
Calls to the office of the Norristown municipal administrator were not returned.
The borough has been working on making repairs to the building, but progress has been very slow.
Meanwhile, the criminal trial for the builder, Robert Fazio, is set to get underway next month.
pennsylvania, norristown, local/state, dann cuellar
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