Post # 1
Beeees! Advice please! But first a vent…
Yesterday morning has been another very rainy day in our midwestern US suburb where Darling Husband and I bought our first home a month ago. I went to check the (finished) basement because the previous owners disclosed “in periods of heavy rainy water comes in by the door. Enough to be wiped up by a towel”.
Sure enough there was water in the laundry room but not anywhere else in the basement. I started wiping and mopping but it wasn’t getting better. I go back into the main room to see a dry room suddenly fill with water from the baseboards. It happened super fast as though the house was suddenly submerged in water. There was about a 1/2 inch to an inch in some places. I called my parents who live nearby and could bring an external pump, shopvac, and extra fans and we got things dried out.
The thing is… that “wet spot” by the door keeps reappearing as though it’s coming up from the floor and the previous owner lived here for nearly 20 years. I find it hard to believe the basement never flooded like that but they didn’t disclose anymore. Some facts: sump pump was on and working, this is not considered a flood plain, inspector and waterproofer gave the basement the ok (granted owners did have a LARGE rabbit cage with animals in it right over the now perpetual wet spot).
Do we have any recourse if we can find proof of historical undisclosed flooding? What could this flooding even be? I’m worried major work needs to be done to keep the basement dry. I clearly need to get a waterproofer out here again but I don’t want to be taken advantage of. What are your experiences with basement floods?
Post # 2
Have you done any recent landscaping or disturbed the soil anywhere close to the foundation or door? Pulled out any shrubs or done any digging?
We had a similar problem in our first house and it became far worse when our next door neighbor had a new driveway done and they regraded it to slope towards our property. His contractor denied any wrongdoing, so we had to dig up and regrade our entire lawn to slope away from our house.
If the walls are finished and covered with sheetrock, its possible you have cracks in your foundation that you wouldn’t know about unless there was evidence of prior water damage and dried up stains. Are your gutters in good shape and have extensions on them moving the rain water far enough away from the house? Do you happen to have a concrete patio adjacent to the house where it may be cracked close to the foundation? My Dad’s house had that problem from his patio, causing his interior basement walls to crack and shift over time. He had a sump pump and French drains placed as well, but occasionally still had a flooded basement.
Lots of things for you to have checked to correct the problem, sorry to say.
Post # 3
somathemagical : Unless there has been some renovation work recently done as ItWasntMe : suggests, my go-to response would be to verify if the inspector and waterproofer had the owners move the cage so they could *thoroughly* check things out. It seems very odd that the previous owners would have a large animal cage- with animals in it- blocking a door. And coincidentally concealing a problem spot. Plus they’d have to be pretty awful pet owners to keep their animals in a cage in a basement right in the line of water seeping in during rain. If this was a ruse to prevent proper inspection, I think you may have a case for historical undisclosed flooding, but I’m not sure of the steps you’d take to initiate this? My advice would be to have someone back out to inspect the basement thoroughly, with you &/ or your husband present with them and then possible legal counsel?
Post # 4
Did you use a lawyer to close the sale? (In some states it’s normal to have a real estate lawyer on board.) If you did I’d email them asap to find out what you can do.
If not I’d probably get a quick consult with a real estate lawyer to find out if you have any sort of legal case. No point getting riled up if you don’t, as frustrating as it is.
Post # 5
The seller disclosed flooding; the fact that it’s more flooding than they disclosed is probably irrelevant. It has been historically rainy in some parts of the country this year, so it could be that they could clean up their flooding with a towel because it wasn’t raining this much, or it could be that the problem has simply gotten worse. Or maybe they lied after all, but with other plausible explanations and your acceptance of a periodically wet basement and all its consequences, you’re going to have a very difficult time holding them accountable (and there’s no court in the world that will award you damages for a wetter-than-you’d-expected basement; it would be like buying a tire and getting a discount because it had a very slow leak, then being upset when it went flat all at once).
I would spend my efforts on the waterproofing and not waste energy on trying to get some relief from the seller.
Post # 6
somathemagical : I agree with checking everything that ItWasn’tMe suggested. Even if you had new much installed, for example, you have to make sure the weep holes in your own house weren’t covered up. Sometimes water in the basement can come all the way from the roof. Leaky windows have been known to let water run down the walls to the basement.
I live in the Midwest too and we have had a lot of rain this spring. In my old house (we just moved) I had neighbors that never got water in their basement suddenly get water. The ground can only absorb the rain so fast and I think this is just one of those unfortunate things.
And Horseradish is right. The disclosure form has to state whether or not there is or has been flooding, not to what degree or how often. And if the owners had it “fixed” then it does not have to be disclosed.
In the house we just sold, we had a huge issue with the foundation that our inspector missed. Like huge problem. We spoke with our attorney and we had to file a claim on our homeowner’s insurance. They went after the previous owners (through their homeowner’s insurance) for failing to disclose the problem as we had an independent inspector come in to assess the damage. It was a similar situation to yours, in that the previous owners had a wall of shelves and boxes in front of the wall that had the problem. I believe the insurance company also went after the first inspector for not catching the problem to begin with.
It is really hard to prove historical damage, especially because your disclosure form DID state flooding. It is then buyer beware, unfortunately,
Post # 7
My guess is that you don’t have a case, unless you could prove there is a bigger problem (like a cracked foundation) that the sellers knew about and tried to cover up instead of fixing and lied about it. Like, if they had told you “the basement flooded in the past due to cracks in the foundation, however we had it professionally repaired and it has not been a problem since”, except they never fixed it.
In terms of fixing it, I would call a water restoration company (there are some good chains in the midwest). 1- you dont know if everything has always been properly dried out and you might have some mold issues you need to fix and 2- they could probably give you good advice on how to fix and some good contractors to work with in your area.
IMO- water and flooding isn’t something to mess with (speaking from experience). Water can cause so much stinking damage so quickly and it’s better to get things fixed now before they get worse and your basement is under a foot of water one day.
Post # 8
redmango : we get minor flooding at the beginning of the rainy season before the ground is used to absorbing water.
Buying a drain pipe extender also helped a lot.. just getting the water to enter the ground 2 ft further away really changed how much came in.
Post # 9
Horseradish : +1 to this.
OP, any chance you might’ve bought a home warranty policy around the time of the sale? They’re common in my area, and sometimes can just slide by as another line item during closing, but if you do have one it might cover part or all of the work.
So sorry you’re dealing with this! Home repairs suck!
Post # 10
somathemagical : ask your home insurance company to see if there was ever any flood related claims on your home. Maybe a long shot but my broker did find that my house had a non-disclosed sewer backup that ultimately forced the sellers to pay for a backflow value being placed (note my broker found this before the sale was closed so we could have walked if we wanted to). I agree this seems sketchy for you!
Post # 11
Thanks to everyone who has responded with advice or suggestions!! I’m hoping it’s not a huge deal where we will have to rip up the floors to get proper drainage. It was so odd and happened really quickly up from the floor do I hope it’s just over saturation of the ground or water table or something. Water proofers will come out this week to assess.
Post # 12
somathemagical : I’m glad the waterproofers are coming out but sometimes it can be hard to assess when the problem isn’t actually happening, in other words, if they’re not there when it’s raining and they can see where the water is coming in, it can be difficult to pinpoint where the problem is starting. You didn’t happen to video it, did you? My sister had a similar problem with water coming in and they had to take video to show where the problem was. In her case, it was the neighbors that had recently re-landscaped and graded the new area to steep so all the water ran to their house.
Post # 13
Hey OP, my fiance and I are dealing with similar problems with the house we recently bought. In our case, the basement is not finished (and will never be finished). The house is over a hundred years old, so it has porous stone foundation walls that are great at pulling water in from the ground. That was to be expected though. The annoying thing is that the sellers had recently redone the walk-out steps into the basement… with no regards to drainage whatsoever, so during heavy rain we get a ton of water coming down the steps and under the door. Luckily there is a floor drain right there, but STILL. Gotta redo those steps. And we inspected the house in the dead of winter when the basement was dry as a bone. We’ll have to run a dehumidifier until we can get some moisture mitigation stuff installed (which will be expensive).
On your house, I would suggest looking up past permits on the house, if the basement was not originally finished. If they ratted the finished basement in, the previous owners could have not done things right.
And the animal cages placed on the wet spots? Absolutely deliberate. I’d put money on it.
Post # 14
Hi – I am a real estate lawyer. I’m so sorry this happened to you! How frustrating.
My advice to you is do NOT take legal advice from anyone on the internet. Ever. You very well may have a claim against the prior owners – or you may not. We frankly do not have enough information, and we don’t know the laws of your specific jurisdiction.
My advice is to talk to a real estate lawyer in your area – that’s the only person that can give you real answers about what rights you may have against the sellers of the house. Good luck!