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Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

  1. #1
    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House


    So I just bought a house in January. I bought it from a seller/contractor duo that had purchased the home in April of 2016 and flipped it.

    Yesterday, I noticed my basement had significant water in it. It was covering the entire floor. The house came with a sump pump in the basement that was not hooked up. This is what the inspection reported:

    Evidence of water penetration and dampness noted at time of inspection. The source
    and amount of water penetration may not be observable at the time of inspection.
    Tiger suggests you consult the owner for a historical perspective regarding previous
    water penetration.
    Sump Pump: Sump pump in place. The sump appears abandoned and is not
    operational. Sump pump present at property, but unit was not plugged in or set up for
    continuous use. Consult seller for usage and clarification. Consult seller for
    clarification. Installation of sump pump system is not to professional standards.
    Extend sump discharge line approximately 15 ft. from the foundation. Consider
    installing a sump pump with a battery back up.
    French Drain: Not Present.
    Dehumidifier: None Observed.

    We had asked the seller/contractor to hook it up and run it outside prior to the P&S, and he did not agree to do so as he said water did not leak into the house. We said OK, and it was not completed prior to close.

    I was able to get the sump pump running, but had to take a trip to the hardware store to purchase the remaining materials to do so. It is not permanently installed as I currently have it running out the basement window as there is other way to run it out of the house. The water has been flowing non-stop into the basement and the pump has been turning on every minute for the past 36 hours as the hole in the basement fills up and triggers the float. There are 2 places in the foundation that I can visibly see water leaking in. I would guess there are more as well, but cannot be sure.

    After consulting with my family, they stated that this should have been disclosed to us prior to purchasing. I can 100% say that if I knew about this I would not have offered the price I paid, or perhaps would have passed on the house altogether. I read through the P&S as well as the other documents, and there are statements that I bought the house as-is. Through some research, I've also learned that if the seller knew about the leaking basement, he would have needed to disclose it to me. Because of the inspection, I feel I could be out of luck....but there is more.

    I have also received a warranty with the house, which was included in the P&S. Specifically, in section 14, it states:

    "14. CONCRETE FOUNDATION AND FLOOR:
    It is not possible to prevent concrete from cracking because of the nature of the material. Cracking, pitting, and flaking occur and are not covered, except for those foundation cracks that emit water; these are covered for one (1) year. Cracks do not impair the structural strength of the dwelling."

    This is a very major issue. The water is flowing in incredibly fast. If the pump were to fail for any reason, my basement will take on significant water. I am concerned that it will damage the walls, and much more importantly, potentially flood the boiler. I have needed to stay at home since the leaking started and will need to stay home from work until the water stops flowing to make sure the pump does not fail.

    NESR, what do you think? I sent my closing lawyer a very similar email. That said, our business was done and he doesn't need to give me any advice for free. Hopefully you guys have some free advice for me?

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 04-02-17 at 09:55 PM.
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    Lifer 01xj's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    I'm certain that others will know more, but I think you will have legal recourse that this was not disclosed at the time of sale. There is absoloutely positively no way the seller didn't know about this. It's rained much harder and for a much longer period of time in the past 6 months to year, which certainly would have caused the same problem. I think you need to start talking with a RE lawyer ASAP.

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    Senior Member South of Heaven's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Jetta: Is this an April Fools joke or what??

    The sump pump was reported as not working in the inspection.....You then ask the seller to fix it.....He says NO.....You say okay and buy the house anyway......

    Now you expect him/her to pay for your damages???!

    Bend over and grab your ankles son....

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    Expert Agitator GearHd6's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Yeah I'm pretty sure that's going to be on you at this point. Just the fact that you saw a sump pump in the house should have been a red flag and a reason to really look around or ask lots of questions. This time of year is the worst for wet basements with frost coming out of the ground, snow melt and the rain we've been getting. My yard is like a mud bog right now, happens every year at this time.

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    Changes come butcher bergs's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    When you're ready, call Rescon.

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    Lifer
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    you have an uphill battle. start taking lots of video and pics to document the case. take notes on every call or interaction you have with these people including names and times.

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    Lifer zxme's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by South of Heaven View Post
    Jetta: Is this an April Fools joke or what??

    The sump pump was reported as not working in the inspection.....You then ask the seller to fix it.....He says NO.....You say okay and buy the house anyway......

    Now you expect him/her to pay for your damages???!


    Bend over and grab your ankles son....
    Pretty much. You had 3 months to get it working, sucks I know

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    Soul Rider Paul_E_D's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    I would probably just start to look for a solution/mitigation to the problem. That much water sounds like a clear indication that your basement dips into the water table (as opposed to surface water issues). But I would do some studying of runoff around the property just in case.

    Get the sump permanently installed with the outlet going to and underground dry well away from the foundation. Be aware that this can become a circular problem. pump water out, and it flows back in. Sometimes, if there is simply a river trying to flow though your basement, it is easiest to simply create a path of least resistance and let it flow through a couple times a year.

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    Lifer Chippertheripper's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by boosten lebaron View Post
    you have an uphill battle. start taking lots of video and pics to document the case. take notes on every call or interaction you have with these people including names and times.
    This. Document EVERYTHING.

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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Having owned a house next door to a river for almost a decade I can feel your pain. Just wait until you get the electric bill from the pump running almost continuously.

    Regarding the legality of recourse question, I can offer no help there as I'm not a lawyer and have minimal experience in real estate law. That being said, keep in mind 2016 was a dry year. Even the spring, due to the lack of snow pack was dry. Simply put the water table may not have risen to the point that the basement took on water and the seller's limited experience (<1 year) may not have seen any water in the basement.

    That being said, if you could get your hands on the Purchase and Sales from when they bought the house, you could at least see if the prior owners to the flippers disclosed water issues.

    FYI, as long as you have the sump pump set up properly there's zero reason to stay home from work. Sump pumps are found in basements all over the US and rarely fail unless they clog or overheat. Keep a spare pump on the shelf should that happen, make sure your sump pump hole is filled with course gravel to keep the sand away from the pump and party on.

    Fitz

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    Lifer SteveM's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    I hate to say this, but a previous owner installed the sump pum because of water, water doesn't just stop heading into the basement of its own accord. When you permitted the seller to not properly update the installation prior to closing, you bought the entire problem.

    You believed the oral representation of a flipper who was only in the house during a historic drought.

    I wish you the best of luck with this, but would encourage you to spend all the money now to have this fully investigated and cured. The technology has improved since the sump pump. You need to know if the source is the water table, ground water seepage or an underground stream. Each will present different challenges, frequency and severity.

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    Lifer snwbrdr435's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Hydraulic Cement

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    Lifer Falko's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    I had a similar issue. There was a sump pump in the house when we bought it, the seller said there was occasional water in the corners. First spring, there was water in the corners, in the center, on the walls, everywhere. But because they said there was some sort of water, we were screwed. We've been in the house for 18 years, still has water, still live with it. When we did an addition, we found the water table down about 3 ft. If you are worried about it, install two pumps, one for back up.

    I think you do have some recourse as the seller stated it doesn't get water. I hope you have that in writing.

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    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    So I did ask about water and he the contractor said no leaks. The pump had been disconnected, which I mistook for meaning the problem had been fixed. The pump is old, it could have been disconnected for years. The home was completely flipped and there was substantial work done everywhere. The home also came with a warranty that I had specifically point out a leaking basement. Call me naive, but I did as much homework as I could and I am where I am.

    I'm taking pictures and videos everyday. Looking through the warranty, it is guaranteed by the contractor himself (not a business that he can dissolve) so his neck is a bit more on the line.

    The basement isn't finished, nothing is damaged, I just have water everywhere.

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 04-03-17 at 07:46 AM.
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    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Count me in the "you own it now" camp. Welcome to home ownership! Although I would think that you have a chance of making a claim on that warranty. But that won't do anything for going after the sellers. Competitive market there in Boston, I guess.

    I also agree that a sump pump isn't the end of the world. Lots of people have sump pumps running near-non-stop without issue. I 2nd the idea of keeping a spare pump on hand in case the pump fails. Just unbox, swap in, and let'r go.

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    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post

    I also agree that a sump pump isn't the end of the world. Lots of people have sump pumps running near-non-stop without issue. I 2nd the idea of keeping a spare pump on hand in case the pump fails. Just unbox, swap in, and let'r go.
    In all honesty...I'm not freaking out. I'm okay living with it, maybe an interior trench with crush stone to keep it off the floor. I also don't know how bad it really will be if the pump is running from the start. Who knows when the basement started flooding. If the pump was running from the start it may only be wet in one certain spot.

    More bummed about the fact if I go to sell (which I'm not planning on doing anytime soon), I'll need to disclose this based on my own piece of mind.

    I'll let you know how this plays out.

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 04-03-17 at 08:06 AM.
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  17. #17
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by JettaJayGLS View Post
    Evidence of water penetration and dampness noted at time of inspection.

    The sump appears abandoned and is not operational.

    Installation of sump pump system is not to professional standards.

    French Drain: Not Present.

    Dehumidifier: None Observed.

    We had asked the seller/contractor to hook it up and run it outside prior to the P&S, and he did not agree to do so as he said water did not leak into the house.

    We said OK.

    NESR, what do you think?
    Just reading what you shared, these bits above don't sound good for you.

    I am a novice at home repairs, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt. You saw a clear red flag, and bought it anyway. Curious why you rolled through the red light? Were you in a hurry to buy a property?

    And your exactly right. You should fully expect this to be an issue for future buyers, unless you are comfortable with some major cover up. I saw a house last year that I really really liked, but it had evidence of a botched foundation repair (brick on stone). The home inspector pointed it out very clearly just like yours did. I pulled the plug immediately because its an issue that will never go away and I didn't want to be at the other end of explaining it away to potential buyers and hope they buy my explanation.

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 04-03-17 at 08:08 AM.

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    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by xxaarraa View Post
    Just reading what you shared, these bits above don't sound good for you.

    I am a novice at home repairs, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt. You saw a clear red flag, and bought it anyway. Curious why you rolled through the red light? Were you in a hurry to buy a property?

    And your exactly right. You should fully expect this to be an issue for future buyers, unless you are comfortable with some major cover up.
    Here is the play by play.

    Had inspection and was there when it went down every step of the way. The inspector and I talked at length about it. He said yeah, the basement could get some water, its an old foundation. He also said the pump looks like it hasn't been operational in years and was clearly disconnected by someone, not just old and run down. He said to ask the seller about it. I asked the seller about it. He said no water. I also had them put a leaking basement into the warranty and they agreed. I felt I had done my homework. Again, I guess I am naive but I am where I am.

    This was also a year into looking for a place and lots of above asking offers that got turned down. I got this one on a significant low ball offer. That for sure could have played into it.

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 04-03-17 at 08:10 AM.
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    This is why having a good, experienced realtor is important. If he/she was on their game, they would have explained everything in detail prior to you signing the purchase and sales.

    Not sure what legal recourse you have with an "as is" sale. In RI, as is, means exactly what you'd expect... you close, you own the house and its problems.

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  20. #20
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by JettaJayGLS View Post
    I got this one on a significant low ball offer. That for sure could have played into it.
    How long was it on the market before you bought it? Not sure where you are, but in any of the Boston near-suburbs, if a property sits on MLS for more than 10 days before going into contingent status, there's usually a story associated with it. If yours sat for any length of time before your bought it, it just means that red light you rolled through was lit up by very bright and flashing LEDs. Another dead giveaway is MLS status history - did it go into contingent and flip back to on the market? Any property that does that a couple times has a closet full of skeletons.

    Also, your notes say the inspector noted "evidence of water penetration and dampness" You couldn't possibly be any more clear about the situation than that, regardless of what explanation the owner tried to sell you. Sorry Jetta, I hate to say it man, but you saw the problem and adopted it as your own.

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 04-03-17 at 08:17 AM.

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    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    And that's fine. I'm looking to see if there is any recourse for the seller not disclosing it. The google tells me yes, that they needed to disclose it. The google also tells me that its going to be really hard to prove the seller knew about it.

    My realtor is pretty pissed about it, because we saw all the signs and specifically asked for it and had it put in the warranty. I took it in good faith from the seller, clearly my mistake.

    It was listed in October, my offer went in a month later and was turned down, they called me back another month later and asked if I was still interested. There are many many reasons this sat on the market. Its in Roxbury, its not in one of those desirable areas of Boston, despite being a rather excellent and safe location in fort hill. It is very common for places to sit on the market in Roxbury, I did my homework on this. The house never went under agreement which means it was never turned down due to inspection, which is something I found very prevalent in JP and Brighton. The builder missed the market and didn't list the house til October, and it hadn't been finished yet. I had a 5 page long punch list of items and finish work he had to complete for the agreed upon price. He didn't do one of them and I got cash back. He never had open houses, simply a lock box that they gave realtors the code too. They never staged the house either, it was empty and a relatively unpolished site. The builder and realtor (his wife) live on the south shore and have all their listings on the South Shore. This was their most expensive listing and the only listing they had in Boston. We built the story that they ran out of time and money and needed to get rid of it. They no longer could swing driving to Boston to work on the home. Believe me when I say it was a low ball offer...then again maybe it was the right price looking at things now.

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    Last edited by JettaJayGLS; 04-03-17 at 08:28 AM.
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    Super Moderator TheIglu's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    If there is a warranty, call in the warranty. No need for legal recourse unless they refuse to honor it.

    In the meantime, go to Home Depot and buy a new sump pump and plug it in. It's on you to minimize further damage until they can get it resolved.

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    Fast is contagious JettaJayGLS's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by TheIglu View Post
    If there is a warranty, call in the warranty. No need for legal recourse unless they refuse to honor it.

    In the meantime, go to Home Depot and buy a new sump pump and plug it in. It's on you to minimize further damage until they can get it resolved.
    At this point, it seems likely that I will do this. My concern here is that when he "plugs the holes" new ones just pop up. Water always wins.

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    Super Moderator TheIglu's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Well yeah, but you did buy a house that had evidence that it had won before. I really hate to pile on after everyone else was cause I feel your pain, but they are right. You bought a house that gets the pee-pee-pants.


    I bought a house with a leaky cracked foundation that the seller tried to hide (poorly, with a pile of dirty sewage soaked clothes). The crack in the poured foundation was allowing the cracked septic tank contents back into the house. Really super discovery.

    One of my first weekends with our house involved digging, by hand, a hole 8 feet down to hydraulic cement/plastic/tar the crack.

    I get water in once every few years, just a small puddle. Previously, it was a swamp down there.

    It's not the end of the world if you have to deal with it. If you get water, you get water. Keep your stuff up on pallets, or don't store anything valuable down there and keep a sump pump in good condition ready to go.

    Is it a poured foundation or block/stone?

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    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Legal Advice: Basement Leaking in Recently Purchased House

    Quote Originally Posted by JettaJayGLS View Post
    At this point, it seems likely that I will do this. My concern here is that when he "plugs the holes" new ones just pop up. Water always wins.
    correct if it actually is groundwater, if it's surface water, plugging will work

    is the water seeping in from walls? it's surface water, quite common this time of year when snow is melting, heavy rains and frost is coming out of ground, make sure you have good drainage away from foundation, and run any rain gutter downspouts well away from the foundation, if no rain gutters, put some on

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