Seven condo owners in the City-owned Hilton Hotel and 99 unit 5 Fifty Five condo project are suing the city-backed non-profit developer for noise problems and water leakage damage.
The impacted units are located under a catering kitchen that is reportedly loud and susceptible to water leaks into the units below.
According to the Statesman:
The condo owners are suing Austin Convention Enterprises. Tony Ciccone, the lawyer representing three of them, said the problems caught his clients by surprise because they were not allowed to tour sections of the building before their purchases and did not know that hotel plans included putting a banquet kitchen above residences.
Five of the condo owners suing the city say that chronic leaks from the kitchen, plus the noise from a service elevator and heavy carts thunking across the kitchen’s tile floors at night, have made their units uninhabitable.
According to court filings, Linda Cartwright bought a unit in August 2006 and soon discovered water leaking in through her smoke alarm. A year later, Cartwright “returned from vacation to find her ceiling open and water openly running onto the floor of her unit,” causing severe damage, the lawsuit says.
Gary and Rhonda Golden allege in their lawsuit that leaks and noise have ruined their two units, on the eighth and ninth floors.
The city has acknowledged some of the problems.
“Based on prior investigations … it is obvious that the kitchen is causing the leaks” into condo units, according to a Jan. 8 letter from Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza to the condominium owners association.
The Hilton was developed by the City through a $110 million1998 bond issue. The convention center hotel was a key part of the City’s strategy to strengthen the convention and tourism industries with a large anchor hotel. Such a hotel is required to lure larger events to the city. According to the City, the hotel has been a financial success, paying off its debt obligations at an accelerated rate.
The city owns 74.41 percent of the space inside the building while Condo owners collectively own 22.68 percent of the space. The remaining 2.91 percent is commercial space owned by Neches Street Partners. So far, the majority of complaints are related to the small number of units directly under the kitchen. It is not clear whether the units on upper floors suffer from similar construction issues. The complex ownership structure has made it difficult to address the issues by moving the kitchen.
The Hilton is not the first project to be sued by its condo owners. Last year, Sabine owners sued the developer for a variety of problems including noise and safety issues. The litigation was resolved when the developer agreed to make significant repairs and enhancements to resolve the issues.